New Year, old ways

The new year began with a woman killing her partner after he slapped her several times on different occasions during celebrations on Sunday.
This comes on the heels of the Human Services Ministry announcing on December 31, 2022 that some 900 cases of domestic violence were recorded in the year 2022. Human Services Minister, Dr Vindhya Persaud also announced that this represented an increase in reports when compared to the cases in 2022.
This issue of domestic violence, its trickle effects and impact on society, has on numerous occasions been reported in Guyanese media, but, unfortunately, this continues despite awareness efforts.
One of the astonishing points that was brought to the fore in Sunday’s killing of 25-year-old labourer Jason Bownath was that relatives did not want to intervene in what they called “man and wife” dispute.
It is not uncommon to hear this term being peddled by many persons who failed to intervene in domestic disputes among couples. However, it is sad that even with all the empowerment and awareness campaigns families are still taking this archaic position on such a serious issue.
Domestic violence has been described as “behaviour which causes one partner in a relationship to be afraid of the other. Domestic violence can take the form of physical or sexual abuse, and forced social isolation away from friends and family members.”
However, not many women admit to being victims of violence. The Human Services Minister had some time ago said, “Domestic violence remains a taboo, shuttered behind closed doors and only emerging as bloody faces, bruised limbs, broken spirits and dead bodies. Fear of societal judgement, insecurities about children and finances, family pressure and manipulation keep this a hushed conversation, or results in an overwhelming silence”.
The magnitude of the impact cannot be underestimated.
While it is always heartening to hear that surviving victims and witnesses to such horrific incidents would be counselled, it would be very informative for all to know the extent of what is available and offered. While expectations would be for what obtains in the developed nations, realistically, there must be something tangible in keeping with available resources, with upgrades foremost in planning.
This is not, in any way, suggesting that there is not an effective mechanism. However, counselling can be an extensive process for some, depending upon the circumstances. Given the plethora of incidents that unfortunately continue, and which would make added demands on the system, the question of adequacy of trained staff, needed facilities, and support systems becomes more pertinent.
We had previously called for urgent action to be taken by the Government and other partners to end violence against women. We are pleased that some steps are being taken in this regard, including the ‘914 emergency hotline’ which was launched in December 2020. Since its launch, the 24-hour hotline operators have been seeking to offer support, referral to victims and survivors, family, friends and professionals via an integration of the services available at both the Domestic Violence Unit and the Childcare and Protection Agency.
As a matter of fact, the ministry reported that more persons are using the 914 hotlines to report cases. This is good news as it demonstrates that persons are aware of avenues available to help themselves and/or those who are victims.
Dr Vindhya Persaud on the final day of 2022 said: “a number of calls came in via the 914 hotline were directly related to domestic violence at least 40% of those calls were related to domestic violence of all different forms…there are people who see it, they get into a habit of reporting it, and we also have been training the Police Force in the top squad initiative. We’ve trained over 4800 of those persons so next we’ll be able to have a graduation for them…”
We once again echo the call that better can and must be done. Everyone must work in every home, school, office, community in every part of our country to expose domestic violence where it exists.
That said, we again urge the Government to reconvene a stakeholders’ engagement to tackle the issue of domestic violence. The aim should be to reassess and modify current strategies, taking into account the lessons learnt from past experiences.