(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 12 May 2012)
A woman died this week after law enforcement officers went through her Sophia neighbourhood shooting off their guns. She ran to the door out of fear for her son’s life and then just collapsed. Those same heartless officers then refused to take the woman to the hospital. This is a woman who had children and helped to feed other children, but those who are sworn to protect and serve society treated her as nothing.
Last week a Muslim woman who had been viciously assaulted (her top and hijab were ripped off of her!) allegedly by member of the Anna Catherina Policing group went to the Leonora Police Station to file a report and was abused even further by a law enforcement officer at the station. Such humiliation and torture inflicted on this woman by the “protectors.”
In February, a “protector” at the Sans Souci Police station in Wakenaam bluntly refused to take a report from a domestic violence victim. The officer reportedly told the victim and her mother that such a matter was not for the police; instead, he said it was a matter of a private nature and he advised her to take her own action. I sure hope that woman is still alive today. If she is, it is no thanks at all to the nation’s “protectors.”
How many cases of violence against women never see justice because those in law enforcement either do not do their job or conveniently turn their eyes the other way? The epitome of all that is wrong with the nation’s protectors comes in the person of the former police commissioner Henry Greene, who was accused of committing a rape at gunpoint and then found a way to escape facing a charge. It is just so disgusting that it makes me want to spit!
I could go on and on about cases like these, where the protectors are in fact either part of the problem (by inaction) or the entire problem (by active commission of a wrong) when it comes to violence and abuse against women. These protectors are most certainly not the solution, which is what they are paid to be.
That is not to say that there are no good officers in Guyana. But let’s be honest, we seldom hear of officers who help, protect and serve the country with noble intent. Instead, we hear about and see with our own eyes the bribes, the abuse, the corruption, the refusal to help, the refusal to protect. All of this skulduggery from law enforcement does not solely apply to the women of the nation; it is usually spread pretty nicely across all citizens, including those who do not have the money to buy their way to justice.
During my recent trip to Turkey for a women’s rights conference, my house in Prashad Nagar was robbed and all the electronics were stolen. My husband did not even bother to call the police. He and our friends said, “What’s the use?” My only response was to shrug and agree.
However, although the lack of protection extends to all citizens, it would seem that since women are one of the more vulnerable groups in society, common sense would argue that those who need the most protection should be first and foremost on the list of those to be protected by the protectors. Instead, women are further abused and violated by the very protectors themselves!
So where are the women to turn for justice? Who will protect Guyana’s women when law enforcement refuses to do so? When a woman needs help, there is nowhere to go and no one who will protect her. There is ample reason for her not to turn to the police for help and this is a sad indictment against all law enforcement officers.
I say all, because even the good officers who want to help, protect and serve look the other way when their colleagues inflict harm and abuse against women. When the “good ones” do not stand up and protect women from their own colleagues, they are just as guilty as the ones who actually inflict the harm and abuse.
Again, where are women to go for protection? This is not a rhetorical question. I really do want an answer from someone who has the authority to answer it. The women of this nation deserve to know the answer to this question. Even more, the women need to know the answer.
Who is willing to answer this question for the women of Guyana? The acting Police Commissioner? The Home Affairs Minister? The Human Services Minister? President Ramotar? Can someone please tell us where women can go for protection without being further abused? Is there anyone who even gives a damn?
Is there any leader in all of Guyana who will stand up for the women and demand a change in the way law enforcement treats the females of the nation? I am begging – I’m pleading – please protect the women. Tomorrow we celebrate Mother’s Day. How many mothers will need protection tomorrow and not get it?