In his excellent letter of April fifth, (The Greene case is a manifestation of a socio-cultural phenomenon) Abu Bakr wrote, “the point that remains is that ‘rape’ in all of its definitions, is facilitated and covered up by a certain way of life, certain values, liberties and the ambient immorality. The cleansing of the place has got to go beyond throwing Greene to the wolves. It has got to extend to re-educating our women as to what is dignified and honourable. And our men to see woman as a principle that often exceeds in its sanctity the way some women have been brought up to see themselves. Hollering “rape, rape” at an expedient time, and hustling the offender off to the dungeon may salve the conscience. But it does not solve the problem”.
Indeed! These attitudes and outlook that need to be addressed, were best exemplified by the Mighty Sparrow, in his classic hit about his new philosophy:
I discover a new philosophy
With to live with women happily
I have this new philosophy to
Live with women happily
Every now and the you have knock them down
They love you long and they love you strong
Black up they eye bruise up they knee
Then they will love you eternally
It was also indicated in a survey on domestic violence, the findings of which I was privy to at one of my sociology classes at UG in 1988. One such finding was that women believed that unless their husbands beat them once in while, their husbands did not love them.
Today we live in a global village and travel along an information super highway, but, in the context of Guyana, the socialization process has not kept pace and children are still socialized in ways that are not significantly dissimilar to the 1980s and beyond. In this sense therefore it can be argued the perspectives of men towards women and vice versa would not have changed enough to expect radically changed roles and relationships. And thus Abu Bakr’s point about the need for reeducation.
It is against this background that we must give tremendous credit to Red Thread and other organizations and the more recent activists who have moved into the forefront of the struggle to change roles and relationships in order to eliminate domestic and other types of abuse – Stella Ramsaroop, Sukhree Boodram and Dianne Madray. But, as others have pointed out, this has to be an all-consuming national effort. The forces of law and order must be fully sensitized to ensure that instead of turning a blind eye to abuse and telling the abused that she/he must work it out with abuser (this is between man and wife is how they usually put it), they must fully apply the force of the law so that perpetrators are made to suffer the legal consequences of their abhorrent actions. Additionally, the courts must ensure that such consequences are fully applied as well.
Furthermore, the state must provide a network of services to help victims so that they would not refuse to press charges or testify because they are economically or otherwise dependent on their abusers. The state must also work with NGOs to provide a safety net for victims. And the state must work with churches, temples and mosques which have an integral role to play in reeducation with regards to the role of women in society and in relationships especially as it relates to the traditional religious view of women’s subservience to men. The government must also put in place clear ethical and behavioral principles that must be followed by all public servants and must be proactive in ensuring that those who violate such principles pay the penalties, regardless of their status or political connections.
Finally the work of NGOs and activists must be supplemented and supported by the media which can help in the reeducation process, in publicizing the work of NGOs and activists, in sensitizing the public to avenues for information and redress and in bringing to light instances of abuse of any and all nature.
Mr. Editor, given the manner in which politics distills ethics and morality in Guyanese society and the snail-like pace at which normative change occurs, much of what is required (as outlined above) is probably not going to happen any time soon, especially given that our politicians hardly ever walk the talk and the gap between words and actions is as wide, nay perhaps even wider today, than it was at any time in the past. Against this background it is so critical that Red Thread and other NGOs as well as individuals like Sukhree Boodram, Stella Ramsaroop and Dianne Madray be supported by all and sundry who abhor behavior like Commissioner Greene’s, and the umpteen other manifestations of abuse and inequity that occur daily in our society. For, in the words of our national poet, Martin Carter “All are involved, all are consumed”.
Simultaneously, those touched by these organizations and individuals should practice the concept of each one teach one for reeducation to extend as far and as wide as possible. Meanwhile, mothers need to recognize the critical role they play in this process to redefine roles and relationships so that men can begin to view women with respect and equity and so that women can treat themselves with dignity and self-value. For, at the end of the day, it is the mother whose influence figures most significantly in the development of the child’s personality and outlook.