Women's Issues In Guyana


Bearing the brunt of violence

Stabroek News – June 16, 2007

Concomitant with the upsurge in crime in Guyana, attacks on women have amplified. Some have been fatal; all have been traumatic. Meanwhile, women continue to face violent and sometimes deadly attacks in their homes at the hands of their partners.

In terms of criminal attacks, there were two cases this past week. On Monday last, a housekeeper at a home at New Diamond Housing Scheme was bound and strangled by elements bent on perpetrating a robbery, because she very likely knew them. On Wednesday, a Linden homemaker was attacked by a knife-wielding stranger in her own home. She fought with her attacker and was able to escape with her life, though she was slashed with the knife and will perhaps carry the physical and mental scars for life.  

There have been several other recent incidents where women bore the brunt of criminal attacks on homes and other establishments. But in the two instances this week as well as in several other cases, women were specifically targeted. There were no reports in the Diamond murder/robbery of forced entry to the home. It stands to reason therefore, that Aloysia Bernard, the now-dead housekeeper, may have opened the door because she either recognized the perpetrator/s or did not feel threatened by whoever it was. However, her killer/s clearly knew she would be alone in the home during the day. They went there expecting to be let in and they obviously meant to kill her since they must have known that she would not have allowed them to rob her employers and get away with it.

In the Linden attack, the assailant was a stranger to his victim. Reports said he went to the home twice. The first visit was to ascertain that the woman he intended to prey on was at home alone. Reports said he asked for her husband; he claimed to be a friend of the woman’s husband, but she clearly did not know him. When he returned the second time, he forced his way into the house and attacked the woman with a knife. She fought back and it was her struggles that drew the attention of a passing neighbour, who banged on the door and may have saved her life.

Around mid-May, single-parent women in Mocha-Arcadia approached this newspaper after they failed to get redress from the police when a naked man broke into several of their homes apparently with the intention of preying on their young daughters. The police had held and subsequently released the man after an initial report was made and have since been unable to locate him. In the wake of the story appearing, however, there has been a reaction. Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee visited the community and the women have since reported that the Mocha Police Station is now more adequately staffed and that the police have started patrols in the area.

One hopes that there was a similar reaction in Linden, since Wednesday’s attack was not the first in the mining community. For this year, there has been at least one unsolved murder of a woman at Linden – a schoolteacher who was found dead in her home. There have also been several reports of women who were attacked in their homes by intruders. One man was recently arrested, charged and remanded to prison after he allegedly broke into a woman’s home with the intention of raping her, but this does not mean that women in Linden are safe. Periodic police patrols might help.

They might also have helped Aloysia Bernard. This newspaper learned, after the murder, that there had been a break-in at a nearby home not long before and that the thieves had looted the place while the owners were out. Surely, this incident was reported to the police. One wonders what they have done about it. The New Diamond Scheme is populated by many first-time homeowners; families in which both parents work and their children are at school all day. Bandits tend to find such areas alluring; they can break in, loot and leave before the residents get home. They have at least eight hours each workday within which to do so. However, were it known that the police were patrolling these areas at odd hours, the bandits might be less inclined to try breaking in for fear that they might be caught.

If the bandits can figure out that they can target areas where no one at all and in some cases only women are at home during the day, surely the police can employ the same proactivity with regard to dispatching patrols – particularly if there has already been a burglary in the area. Acting Commissioner of Police Henry Greene said just last week that the police were using intelligence and had several leads in relation to recent crimes. This was after he was asked about the current upsurge in crime following the murder of a rice company security guard and the drive-by shooting death of a young man. However, this only refers to crime solving and there is no firm evidence that it is working. What about crime prevention? Will the police intelligence ever extend to this area? Or will the bandits forever be one step ahead of them?

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