(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 2 June 2012)
“When will it end?” This has been the ever-present question every time a woman is murdered by her husband/partner in Guyana lately.
“When will it end?” was repeated this week after a mother of ten was hammered and stabbed by her husband. It used to be just the women who would ask, “When will it end?” Now both female and male voices can be heard in the chorus of the heartbroken. Yet the violence against women endures and the women continue to die.
I asked myself this question again this week and I found an answer. I know when the violence against women will stop. It will stop when women make it stop. You see, violence against women is not a new phenomenon.
It existed in ancient times, when the Bible says the Israelites went around conquering other tribes (especially those who worshipped feminine deities), either killing the women or taking them as slaves or “wives” (against their will). Still today, rape along with other such violence against women is used as a “weapon of war.”
Violence against women existed during the days of the Inquisition, when, according to some reports, as many as nine million women were murdered as witches. Even today, women who practice holistic healing or explore feminine religions are stigmatised as “witches” – as if it were a bad thing to heal others or to choose your own religion.
Moreover, all through the ages, women have been subject to domestic abuse, sold as sex slaves, put on funeral pyres to be burned alive alongside their dead husbands, isolated inside houses away from the world, refused an education and given as brides while still little girls to be forced to have sex and babies before their bodies were ready for either.
This all still happens today. And today girls are killed before they are even born, just because they are girls. There are just so many ways to torture and murder women and it seems men like to be creative in their violence – as is evidenced by the headlines this week.
All throughout history men could have stopped the violence, but they did not. It was not until recently – when women started voting and gaining political power – that laws were even instituted to curb the violence. It was lawful to beat your wife. In some countries today, a man can still kill his wife and not be held accountable for it.
So when is the violence against women going to stop? When women make it stop; and not a second before. When women stop making excuses for men who beat them and put them in jail; that is when violence will stop. When women stop pretending that men will willingly stop raping and killing women and stand up and make them stop; that is when it will end.
I am not saying that all men are rapists and murderers. However, look at the mostly male law enforcement system that refuses to protect the women; look at the politicians who read the same headlines of murdered women as we do; yet still the murders continue.
Some may wonder why women just accept the violence. During the Inquisition, there were many women who stood up and refused to accept the religion being forced on them. Those women were tortured until they wished they were dead…and death soon followed in the most horrific of ways.
When some considered the choice of death or acquiescence to the violence of men, women often chose to live: sometimes for themselves and sometimes for their children. Either way, women were a conquered gender.
It is clear that women are still conquered today as we sit and grieve over a Sister who is hammered and stabbed by her husband, but we do nothing to demand an end to the viciousness. We go on with our lives the next day as if nothing happened… until the next Sister is brutalised and murdered.
It is my opinion that Guyana’s female politicians have very little power because they allow themselves to be controlled by the male politicians and the agenda of those male politicians. The problem with the male political agenda is that it has allowed for the violence against women to continue. The blood of the nation’s women continues to flow. And let’s be honest, the men will continue to allow the violence until women demand otherwise.
How does a woman demand an end to the violence? In any possible way she can. I can think of a gazillion ways to demand men stop their violent ways. In fact I am doing that right now by writing this column. The possibilities range from confronting the placatory male leaders to swarming the streets in solidarity to learning how to effectively defend ourselves.
Men did not want to give women the right to vote. Women fought for that right (though not the way men fight) and we won that victory. Likewise, the only way violence against women will end is when women make it end.
Sisters, I don’t know about you, but I cannot in good conscience grieve over another mutilated dead woman without demanding an end to the constant violence against women. Yes, we will grieve like we always have. We feel loss of life deeply as we are the ones who give life and work our whole lives to sustain life. But let us use that grief to move us to action. Let women be the ones to put an end to the violence once and for all.