A continuing crisis with too many lives lost

Dear Editor,
I wish to draw your attention and that of the readers to the issue of domestic violence, which has been a perpetual predicament in our communities.
Here, in Guyana, our society continues to be plagued by the heinous killings of our women through abusive relationships. Despite many institutional helps provided, numerous voices remain silent, with the battle for survival still raging. Over the course of the past few months, we have read of the brutal murders of quite a few women, such as Waymattie Permaul, whose body was buried in a shallow grave; and Savitrie Raj, whose body was found covered in blood on her bed.
This issue is almost a never-ending tragedy that haunts and tortures scores of women in their daily lives. Hence, according to the UN Women – Caribbean (2019) – almost one in two women living in Guyana experience abuse from their spouse. Over 55% of the women in Guyana have suffered from at least one form of abuse, with one in ten encountering either physical or sexual abuse.
No person, regardless of gender, deserves to live a life of constant fear, especially in a relationship or marriage. While so much is being done to curb this adversity, very little support is given by the institutions that should handle these matters with the highest level of seriousness possible.
No woman should have to fear filing a Police complaint, or being treated unjustly and impolitely. Sometimes I wonder whether the legal and justice system has failed our women, when stringent steps and actions are taken only when most of these lives are lost. Time after time, we see the same pattern repeating itself in all of the circumstances; and after unbearable hurt and pain, most of these women choose to stay with their abusive partners, only to abide for the sake of preventing the loss of their own lives.
Unfortunately, we all know too well that the end of such actions is often grievous and tragic.
Our women should feel free and safe to share their stories in spaces that are confidential, and where support and help can be guaranteed to them. Common in all circumstances is the fact that close relatives and friends are aware of the intense abuse that many of these women go through for years; the harsh beatings and words, and more so the emotional trauma.
How do we create a more meaningful change, so that our women and children can be safe from their abusers? Keeping the peace with the perpetrators does not work forever. Things become more prolonged as the years go by, and many victims, among others who are aware of abuse cases, can attest to this. Get out! And get out as early as possible is the best advice for any one experiencing abuse in their relationships.
Further, abusive behaviours usually start as a simple misunderstanding in which things suddenly take a turn to physical hitting and verbal aggression. Hence, once ignored, this same trait of actions continues to become a habit over a period of time.
Here, in Guyana, I believe that many women are prone to abuse in the home, but have chosen to accept this type of inhumane attribution because it has become the status quo to simply live and endure the circumstances. Likewise, this has become their culture and lifestyle.
In my view, domestic violence situations are prevalent in Indo-Guyanese homes, where most East Indian men are obsessed with alcohol. Loud voices and screams can be heard late in the nights in the homes where most of such men reside, for many families have accepted the lifestyle of an abusive partner as a norm, and ignore the long-term effects of this upon themselves and their children.
It is imperative that everyone in close proximity to abused victims speak out as early as possible, as one life lost is still too much. It is unfair that the future of our women is snatched from them because of remorseless and aberrant men. It is a social injustice that we have witnessed for too long. It is time we review our policies and frameworks relative to the protection of women in abusive relationships. Stricter penalties should be enforced upon the abusers.
Moreover, Police responses have been slow in handling these matters, which often undermines the urgency of these cases. Hence, it is my recommendation that training in responsiveness and treatment of abuse cases be provided to our law enforcement officers, so that they can be better equipped with the necessary skills and attributes to handle these cases.

Imran Bacchus
Advocate against
Domestic Violence