Monday, October 15, 2012

A better way for justice

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 6 October 2012)

If I had a wish for Domestic Violence Month, it would be that every female victim of this beastly crime would garner enough courage and foresight to testify against her offender. Sadly, that is not the case and many offenders walk away with a smirk on their face ready to abuse again.
There are many reasons victims of domestic violence do not testify against their abusers. Some women are financially dependent upon the man and it is difficult for these women to see a way to support themselves and their children without the man and they often choose to continue with the abusive relationship so there is food on the table and a roof overhead.
Some women do not testify against the offender because they truly believe the offender can and will change. There is a sincere love for the man and they disbelieve that a man they love could be so cruel, that is until the next violent episode. He will beg for forgiveness, bring flowers or gifts and tell her how much he loves her. Everything is just fine, until it isn’t and she is once again bruised, bleeding or dead.
Other women do not testify because of terror. These women have no pretty delusions that everything will be fine, they know firsthand just how deadly the offender can be. They have seen it firsthand. They have felt it on their body and seen it in the abuser’s eye. This victim also knows that if they testify and the offender still goes free (as happens frequently), she will pay a hefty price for her testimony and perhaps the ultimate price.
It is for these reasons and many more that victims of domestic violence do not testify against the offender. Sadly, the end result is more abuse and sometimes death. There simply has to be a better way to pursue the domestic violence offenders.

Join the ‘Badass Sisterhood’

(Originally published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on 29 September 2012)

There are reports of groups of women in Northern India that visit abusive husbands and beat them up with bamboo sticks unless they stop abusing their wives. After Guyana has yet another brutal murder of a woman and her two children by her partner, the formation of such a group sounds refreshing.
In India, much like Guyana, it is difficult to get law enforcement to take domestic violence seriously. So these women, who are called “The Gulabi Gang” (translated as ‘pink gang’ from Hindi) because of the pink saris worn by its members, took it upon themselves to protect the women.
Sampat Pal, a mother of five and former government health worker (and a former child bride) formed the group in 2006. The group is made up of women vigilantes and activists originally from Banda in Bundelkhand district, Uttar Pradesh, India, but reported to be active across North India as of 2010.
In 2008, they even stormed an electricity office in Banda district and forced officials to turn back on the power they had cut in order to extract bribes. They have also stopped child marriages and protested dowry and female illiteracy. This is one ‘Badass Sisterhood,’ as it has become known on the Internet where this story has been viral for months now.
After reading about the woman who was murdered this past week by her partner, I then read this quote on Facebook, “A woman needs a man to protect her like a daughter, love her like a wife and respect her like his mother.” I know the woman who posted this quote thought it wise, but I was upset by it.
Why does a woman need to be protected? So that men do not hurt her, right? Which means we are expecting men to protect us from men. What, then, happens when those men who are to be protectors become the ones from whom women need to be protected? We know what happens. Women die.
This logic was quite evident even to Susan B. Anthony who lived in a time of so-called gentlemen when she said, “I declare to you that woman must not depend upon the protection of man, but must be taught to protect herself, and there I take my stand.”
Can women escape from men? Tradition holds that women need to be protected, so they must have a man in their lives. However, as reality has sadly proven time and again, it is from those very men that women need the most protection. As a result, if men do not “protect” women, and law enforcement does not protect women, are women to just cower in the corner and wait to be demeaned, raped, beaten and to eventually die at the hands of the man who says he loves her?