Domestic violence seems to have reached epidemic proportions
Stabroek News – April 23, 2008
It’s quite frightening when one gets the impression that the death of a mother at the hands of her abusive husband is treated as “just another bit of news”.
What was telling about the media reports was that Shaneiza Khan’s eventual demise “came as no surprise”. That response says a whole lot on so many levels, but the most telling of all is the “well, wuh we gon do about that, life don hard already” mentality. Is the sanctity of life no longer precious? My deepest sympathy to the Khan family and the countless others who have suffered at the hands of their abusers.
Reports state that the police were called on several occasions, all to no avail and that seems to be the typical and not an isolated police response.
Everyone has an opinion about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of our law enforcers when it comes to crime prevention or detection, but the fact of the matter is that the police force’s resources are stretched to capacity.
Suffice to say, I’m always a proponent for a highly visible and functioning civil society and this is where I think that civil society can really get to work. Why do we always believe that we have to leave everything to the politicians to fix.
Their sole purpose is to acquire power and retain it at all costs. Everything else is secondary.
The fact that domestic violence in Guyana seems to have reached epidemic proportions suggests that it’s time for civil society to really step up. First, we can begin by urging amendments to existing laws where found deficient. Did I hear that we have a “bright, young” minister responsible for human services?
Second, with some creativity and dedication, a serious effort can be made to start an education awareness campaign sensitising women and the community at large that domestic violence is no longer a private matter between spouses. Churches, mosques, temples, youth groups and other grassroots NGOs should be the first conduits to either conduct these sessions or facilitate such.
Third, other more targeted and established groups/organisations can work on programmes focusing on building women’s self-sufficiency, self-sustainability and self-esteem, letting them know that it’s not “okay” for a man or woman to brutalise his or her spouse in the “name of love” or whatever else. Clinics (again the religious organisations can be tapped here) are needed to deal with substance abuse. I recall that at one time the Guyana Women’s Lawyers Association had a safe house for battered women to take refuge. Is it still functioning? If not can it be resuscitated?
Fourth, a special unit, with the requisite training and resources, should be established in the police force to deal with domestic violence and sex crimes against children.
Fifth, is there a role here for the University of Guyana Women’s Studies Unit to undertake research to ascertain the extent of the problem? For now it’s mostly anecdotal evidence.
These initiatives, I’m sure, are not new and I’m certain that once a start is made they can snowball into real and positive action. I would want to believe that almost everyone has access to the internet, whether at home or at the internet cafes.
There is a host of organisations out there which can be tapped into, whether for financing or capacity building.
The senseless and brutal deaths of Shaneiza Khan and Tamasha Riddle are just too many to bear. If we allow things to continue as they are I fear we will continue to sink deeper into the morass we’re in now.
Stabroek News Editor’s note
There was a report by Professor Ken Danns that showed a high level of domestic abuse.