No longer a taboo topic

In Monday’s edition this newspaper published a story in which three women will soon be facing a judge and jury on at Demerara Criminal Assizes which begins today.
In all the instances the women – one of them is accused of disarming her partner of a knife and stabbing him to death; the other strangled her reputed husband to death; the third allegedly beat her partner to death – all alleged that they were abused by their now dead partners.
Last month, the Bar Association of Guyana made an interesting point when it said “Family violence continues to scourge our society and no doubt sets us back” in reference to the murder of young attorney Asasha Ramzan, who was killed at the hands of her husband, and whom himself died by suicide.
Gender-Based Violence manifests itself in many forms and in Guyana there are too many instances which results in death.
Interestingly, only in November Guyana observed International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and more so 16-days of activism against GBV. Every year, the day served as a global advocacy effort aimed at preventing and eliminating violence against women. This year’s theme was “UNITE! Activism to end violence against women and girls”.
It is no secret that women worldwide, including those in Guyana, continue to face unacceptable levels of violence in various forms. World Health Organization has estimated that nearly 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical and/or sexual violence, mostly by an intimate partner.
Over the years, we have seen countless stories reported in the media of some form of gender-based violence, with women especially being at the receiving end of the beatings; and, in some cases, even ending up dead. Even though the Government and other stakeholders have been engaged in various efforts to bring the situation under control, it seems as if the violence is far from over.
However, not many women admit to being victims of violence. According to the Human Services and Social Security Ministry, “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”.
As pointed out previously by the Human Services and Social Security Minister Dr Vindhya Persaud, “Violence against women is a heinous crime and a pervasive breach of human rights, yet it continues to be one of the longest, hardest challenges to the world, and involves psyches, attitudes, poverty, cultures, emotional manipulation, substance abuse, and lack of education”.
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. For example, the 914-emergency hotline which links survivors to agencies, advocacy programmes, referral pathways, microenterprise industries, and public-private skills employment database matching, and offers immediate help to extricate women from violent situations.
It was also revealed that social workers have been trained through the Survivors Advocacy Programme to offer emotional support and crisis counselling to victims of domestic and sexual violence, and act on the victims’ behalf when necessary. These are all good initiatives.
Added to these, the EQUAL Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) CDN $2.25 million project, which seeks to safeguard women and girls against gender-based violence (GBV) by empowering them to make decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, was launched.
This particular programme will target vulnerable women and girls in our hinterland regions – Regions One, Seven, Eight, and Nine – in addition to women and girls who are Venezuelan migrants.
We also support the Bar Association’s statement when it said, “as Guyanese, we owe a duty of care to be each other’s keeper, we must remain vigilant to look for the signs of gender-based violence.”