On his Facebook page of March 9, Malcolm Harripaul made the following post at 7:06PM; “WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE? on seeing a big man fondle a young lady’s breast.
One of Puran Bros trucks was turning into Bella Dam from the public road. There was a girl crossing the bridge. The driver forced her to the edge. She had to stop. He leaned out of the truck and fondled her breasts as he passed. I saw this sexual assault. The driver is also a Puran employee known as “Blackboy” and he lives in Bella Dam.
“I remonstrated with him. And off course coming from a Billionaire family he issued threats to me. I really felt like pulling him out and administering the 100 lashes that he deserves.”
Like Malcolm, many Guyanese witness such abuse and harassment but are at a loss as to what should be done. And not many would confront the abuser as Malcolm did for fear of being subjected to the similar threats or worse. So what should be done?
One suggestion is that the witness should take a photo or better yet a video of the incident and then report to the police with photo/video as evidence. But what if that person is fearful of the perpetrator and/or if the police do not take him/her seriously? After all, this does happen often enough. Perhaps such individuals can go to the media instead? But, can a witness be charged by the police for not going first to them?
So The Caribbean Voice strongly urges the relevant ministry and government agencies to publicize guidelines for the public as to what actions victims and witnesses should take in situations like this.
Meanwhile Malcolm should be commended for bringing this incident to the public notice. We hope others will follow his example. As well we hope the police can act on this info so the victim can get justice and the perpetrator reaps the consequences of the law for his abhorrent action.
One component of tackling abuse is the need to socialize men and boys against believing they are somehow entitled to ownership of another person’s body. And girls must also be socialized to know that being in love does not mean acceptance of abuse or an abusive relationship for any reason.
Charrandas Persaud, AFC big wig, posted on FB that sugar workers are PPP supporters so for him empathy for them is not a consideration. And this is the kind of person my once very close friend and comrade, Khemraj Ramjattan (Prakash) now associates with. Prakash was a person, who at one time knew what it meant to be a people’s person in the vein of Cheddie Jagan. This Persaud person posted that fired sugar workers should not be complaining about not being able to afford to send their children to school because his father was able to send him and his siblings to school many decades ago even when it was out of crop season. What logic indeed! Kinda reminds me of last year when the government spoke in support of a motion to decriminalize attempted suicide but voted against the motion so that the opposition, who introduced the bill, would not get any credit for its passing. This is what politics has come to in Guyana. Thankfully The Caribbean Voice and many NGOs and social activists do not let politics play any role in our efforts to save lives, empower people and make lives better.
The Stabroek News editorial of March 2nd repeated that inaccurate 44% suicide rate which, unlike other rates for that or any other year, had the globally unreported 25% factored in, according to the WHO, and was thus an anomaly, as indicated below.
Thus that BBC video that was referenced in the editorial contains inaccurate statistics in addition to no in depth analysis, wrong information about suicide in Guyana, and little mention about the successes in suicide prevention over the years as a result of the hard work of NGOs and activists. As well, the following were not interviewed: suicide survivors; NGOs that do substantive suicide prevention work; counselors who handle suicidal and suicide survivor cases. And no suicide hotspots were visited.
Also the BBC’s assertion that Guyanese joke about and trivialize suicide is awfully untrue. In fact, having done work in six of the ten regions in Guyana over the past four years, The Caribbean Voice (TCV) can testify that Guyanese take suicide very seriously. A survey commissioned by TCV in 2016 found that 96% of Guyanese were willing to engage in suicide prevention if provided with the requisite training.
It should also be noted that Guyana is not unique with respect to more female suicide attempts as against more male suicide deaths; this is the global reality, known as the gender paradox in suicide. Incidentally, we once again urge all media to not use the word ‘commit’ when referring to suicide because of its negative connotations. Experts and activists globally suggest ‘died/death by suicide’, ‘suicide victims’ or ‘suicide deaths’ instead.
To bring about significant reduction in suicide, the government, per the WHO recommendation for small economies, needs to fully integrate mental health care into the physical health care system with psychologists in all public hospitals, with easily accessible psychiatric wards in all public hospitals, and periodic visits by psychologists to all satellite clinics and community health centers. As well, all medical personnel throughout the current health care system should be trained, with respect to the mhGAP, WHO’s action plan to scale up services for mental, neurological and substance use disorders for countries especially with low and lower middle incomes. And a full module on mental health should be included in the nurses training program so that they can become part of the integration process from the start of their career.
Also the 30 counselors who graduated late last year from the American University of Peace Studies should be deployed throughout the school and/or health care system while teachers should be facilitated to undertake studies for the UG Diploma in Psychology. Furthermore, basic mental health training should to be included in all training programs, especially the holistic program to replace HEYS. Also needed is an adaption of the Shri Lankan Model of Hazard Reduction to tackle pesticide suicide.
According to WHO, “an important concept in primary health care is that health activities should develop horizontally to involve other sectors working within the community…intersectoral collaboration, involving governmental and non-governmental organizations is important in all areas of health.” In effect, a return of the Gatekeepers’ Program, various versions of which have been highly successful in Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Uganda and elsewhere.
There is also need for updated legislation to overhaul the ossified 1930 Mental Health Ordinance so that a range of deficits outlined by WHO are addressed and the legislation informed by the latest advances in treatment for mental health. To avoid political footballing, we suggest that this be done on a bipartisan basis. We have already seen the effects of partisan politics when the motion to decriminalize attempted suicide was voted down by the government, even though they supported it in principle. Clearly a bipartisan approach is also necessary to take this law off the books.
The bottom line is that there must be political will to tackle suicide in particular and mental health in general. Collaboration must move beyond words to concerted action and regardless of their outlook, political affiliation or ideology, all stakeholders willing and able to make a contribution must be included in a national effort to deal with suicide and other mental health issues. There are hundreds of NGOs, FBOs and CBOs willing to be involved. We know because we have interacted and collaborated with many of them through our outreach, training and lobbying efforts and the National Anti-Violence Candlelight Vigil, held on September 10 each year.
Besides, as evidenced by various TCV polls since 2014:
➢ 92% of respondents believed suicide is preventable,
➢ 75% felt that the government is not doing enough to address suicide.
➢ 69% felt that the government is not doing enough to address domestic abuse.
➢ 79% support the call for the age of consent to be raised from 16 to 18.
➢ 86% believe that sexual exploitation against young people is on the rise and that government needs to take action to deter such occurrences.
➢ 80% support the call for a sex registry for offenders.
In short Guyanese not only want more from the government with respect to mental health, but they are willing to be partners in mental health care and to support measures not yet on stream but that would help to make a difference.
I notice posts on FB indicating that a reference to Hanuman in the Black Panther movie is proof that we are all one? So literary references from other culture make us one? Really? What about helping to uplift, empower? Displaying care and compassion? Reaching out with a helping hand? Is it not this embracing of each other and our humanity that concretely make us one?
You read or hear it all the time…when one door closes God opens another one, or two or many more. So where are the doors of the hundreds of millions globally who are starving, being annihilated in wars, living in abject poverty or with fatal illnesses, the over 100 million living as slaves, the hundreds of thousands of children being exploited for sex, the millions who beg and/or live in the streets, the thousands whose lives are destroyed by the lies of others et al? This penchant to interpret one’s own life and then extrapolate that interpretation as a global reality is symptomatic of lack of empathy, compassion and humanity. True compassion, empathy, humanity lie is being an agent of change opening those doors for the others.
The Caribbean Voice is thrilled at the work the Sexual Offences Court has been doing and we laud the expected move to have this court also set up in Berbice and Demerara, as many have been calling for. We are especially pleased that sentences handed down hover around the maximum rather than the minimum and we hope that this would be the permanent standard.
We expect that the court is, or soon will be, informed by the recently launched Model Guidelines for Sexual Offence Cases in the Caribbean Region created by the Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project in the Caribbean, an initiative of the Canadian Government, in collaboration with the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). And we strongly suggest this court urgently consider adding domestic violence to its portfolio? Also, we urge the Government to set up a similar special court for child abuse. As well, a mobile court is urgently needed for the hinterland, given the problems of distance and transportation. Such a court should combine the roles of the sexual offences and child abuse courts.
Finally, we hope that these courts would consider counselling for victims as part of their mandate.