Women's Issues In Guyana

A dark shadow

Posted in Gender Equality by wiig on March 13, 2007
Tags: , , ,

Guyana Chronicle – March 13, 2007

RECENTLY, U.S. Presidential hopeful and former First Lady, Hillary Clinton told an audience that her quest for the White House was partly a drive to break the “highest and hardest glass ceiling”, the Presidency of the United States.

If the race for the White House becomes one based on the sex of the candidate, Clinton should be the next President of America.

As one article notes, women constitute more than half the U.S. electorate. It also noted that Clinton won more than half the women vote in her senatorial run.

Of course, the issue is not as clear cut as simple sexual demographics. Mrs. Clinton is a popular Democrat with not the best record regarding her association with scandals, and will most likely be up against John McCain – a popular Republican with no discernible scandal in his past.

More importantly however, the clincher will be – providing she even gets the Democratic nomination – that she is a woman. America, the country which defined democracy within the last century, has never had a woman President and there is no indication that it will come 2008.

In Pakistan, the first post-colonial Islamic country to be run by a woman, Benazir Bhutto, women are subject to arbitrarily defined and often misogynistic tribal laws – customs which are often exported to European countries to where Pakistani migrants flock. Honour killings are becoming increasingly visible in the Islamic ghettoes of countries like France and England, but this visibility has not always been met with an equivalent degree of justice. Mainstream European society holds a curious double standard when it comes to violence against immigrant women.

What this serves to illustrate is that the place of women in even the most liberal, democratic and enlightened societies is not an assured one. And very often, this point is underscored by the very primal, very uncivilized act of violence.

This is something that Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Priya Manickchand highlighted last week at a seminar held in Region Five (Mahaica/Berbice).

“Regrettably…,” the minister said, “despite our achievements, women, young girls and children still face domestic and other forms of violence.”

The event was held under the theme, “Ending impunity of violence against women and girls.” This theme goes to the heart of the problem when it comes to violence against women – the impunity with which it is conducted remains the crucial factor in its perpetuation. Whether we are talking about Pakistan, or France or Guyana, the degree to which violence against women is seen as accepted – from traditional wife beating to honour killings – is the degree to which this scourge spreads.

The contrast between the gains made in the area of equal rights for women in Guyana and the very real fact of continued violence against women in our society is a strong one – a “dark shadow” hovering above our achievements, according to Minister Manickchand.

Changing this has to begin not with the removal of the acts of violence themselves but with the societal mindset which condones it.

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