Women's Issues In Guyana


The other hate in Guyana

Kaieteur News – August 10, 2005

Dear Editor,

The other day I was waiting in a room and this lady looked at me and sneeringly told me about something a person of Asian descent had once done that was improper. She snarled her faced together and said, “It was the Chinese.”

The tone of her comment, her facial expression and the attitude that provoke this statement was nauseating. I walked away and asked my companion why people have to be that way. Racism is rampant in Guyana on all fronts, that much is true. However, there is another type of bias that is just as prevalent but gets very little attention – it is called misogyny.

Misogyny, or the hatred of women, is so embedded into our society that even most women have come to accept it as normal. But there is nothing “normal” about hate. Whether toward another race, another nationality or another gender – hate is always wrong.

Misogyny is evident even in our court system. The rape statistics recently released are atrocious alone. However, what is far more appalling is the number of convictions that DON’T put those thieves behind bars. I say thieves because these men steal something from women that can never be replaced – a woman’s peace of mind and her right to consent. It is a violation of the most heinous proportions.

These types of men should be removed from society for a good long time, but instead the courts have given them free reign to rape again and again. And be assured, they will rape again and next time it could be your daughter, wife or mother instead of a stranger.

Another example of misogyny in Guyana is obvious in how difficult it is for an abuse victim to find shelter, report violence and obtain protection. Every day there women all over the nation who shudder at the arrival of heavy footsteps belonging to her husband, lover or father. She knows those footsteps bring pain and more misery – and she knows there is nowhere to turn for help.

Some of these women even fear for their very lives. They remain stuck in a situation that could end in death, yet have no way to get out. She lives in constant torment at the hands of someone who is supposed to love her. If she has children, the hopeless situation increases exponentially. There are a few programs in place and some positive changes have recently been implemented to help these women, but the system is far from being sufficient.

There are also many forms of misogyny that may not be as drastic as these first two; however, they are just as poignant. This includes such facts as the low number of women in the corporate workplace, that women are under represented in politics and even that women are still expected to be the primary caregivers for the children instead of maintaining an equal role of childrearing to allow the mother an opportunity to pursue her own endeavours in life too.

Did anyone stop to think that she might want to do something else besides raise kids? Or does anyone care to know? The answer to both questions is usually, “No.” There is no doubt that women love their children and have developed, by necessity, a nurturing ability. However, it is shortsighted to assume that women have no dreams or aspirations to use their God-given intelligence in other areas as well.

Women are just as intelligent and capable as any man. In fact, I know women who can run rings around the IQ’s of many men. Where are these women? In their homes waiting for the children to grow up, which by then opportunity will have been long gone.

There are so many women who will never realize their full potential because of the chains placed on them by society. Likewise, society will never realize its full potential until it unchains the women. To block women from participation in every single aspect of society is to shoot ourselves in the foot.

When you put a hard-working woman in a place of leadership, you are all but guaranteed success. At least far more success than you would get from a lazy, self-absorbed man who is so busy catching a looking at the latest rear-end to walk by that he can’t get any substantial work done.

Drastic change needs to come to Guyana. It is time for the women of this country to stop hiding their beautiful intelligence in deference to an insecure man in their life. Ladies, arm yourselves with a solid education and step into a bright future. Take risks and open businesses, participate in politics and expect respect from those around you. Change will not be handed to us, we have to demand it and be willing to fight for it if necessary.

There will undoubtedly be women who read this letter and, because they are comfortable in their traditional chains, will get testy because I am pushing the boundaries of social norms. Dear Lady, it is for you that I write this letter. You may not understand or appreciate it today, but one day you will be glad that someone is standing up for your rights and the rights of your daughters.

Likewise, there will be some men who say, “I don’t hate my wife.” However, hate comes in many shades of colours. For example, when you came home from work yesterday, did you offer to help cook dinner or did you demand that your dinner be served immediately? The answer to this question will determine your level of hate.

And, Dear Sir, what will you do if you find hate in your heart? Will you excuse it as a cultural expectation, like that lady who snarled her face at the “Chinese”? Or will you love your wife and change? Will you ask her what she wants from life and help her find the answer that will make her happy?

If the men of Guyana would take these small baby steps, this country would see a revolution like never before. Who knows, maybe we could even start loving other races too.

-Stella Ramsaroop

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