It is quite heart-breaking every time to read in the media that one of our women was killed simply because of her decision to end a relationship and move on with her life. Within a matter of days, the nation was greeted with shocking details of two females, one of whom was as young as 16, being brutally murdered by their male partners.
First, it was the teen from Richmond Housing Scheme, Essequibo Coast, who was brutally stabbed some 21 times by her 34-year-old ex-boyfriend. The suspect, from all indications, forced himself into the home of the teen and demanded to see her. He then ran into the bedroom where she was sleeping, whipped out a Rambo knife, and dealt her several stabs about the body.
It was reported that the teen ended her relationship with the man due to his abusive and jealous behaviour and this may have angered the attacker. What is even more shocking is that the teen reportedly shared a relationship with the man since she was 14 years old.
Then, mere days after, a 28-year-old mother of three was stabbed to death by her reputed husband at their Rosignol, West Coast Berbice home. It was reported that the suspect accused his reputed wife of infidelity. This led to an argument and the woman threatened that she would leave the house. That, of course, resulted in her demise.
These two most recent cases are just a few of the long list of women who have been murdered over the years, most times during domestic disputes. Over the years, there have been 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.
The victims’ stories have been heart-breaking as many of them were killed after years of abuse and perhaps with very little help from those who should have provided the much- needed support mechanisms.
For example, in the case of the Essequibo teen, we are forced to ask where was the community and family support for the victim. Being 14 at the time and having a relationship with someone who is more than twice her age, she could not have easily escaped the attention of neighbours, relatives, and community leaders. Why did they not intervene, especially since they were fully aware that both parents of the three siblings had died. It is clear that the children were left to the mercy of predators without anyone taking the kind of action that was necessary to protect them. There are many questions which remain unanswered about this particular case and it is hoped that going forward, the authorities will dig to the bottom of it to ensure that situations such as this do not reoccur.
Similarly, in relation to the Berbice victim, it was reported that the woman faced years of abuse. Were relatives and neighbours aware of this and if so, why did they choose to remain silent?
The bottom line is that something must be done urgently to arrest the situation as it is clear that what currently obtains has not been very effective. While protection orders have been effective to an extent; quite often, the abusers do not abide by them, hence the need to undertake an urgent review of mechanisms currently in place to protect women from being killed.
Violence against women and children has tremendous costs to communities and can remain with women and children for a lifetime. If not dealt with effectively, it can also pass from one generation to another. Numerous recommendations were made to the previous and current Administrations, yet nothing much has been forthcoming.
Over the years, the United Nations has been pushing countries towards implementing proactive measures to combat domestic violence. These measures have included criminalising gender-based violence, undertaking massive public awareness campaigns and providing training to equip both men and women to act as first responders and to support victims of the scourge at the community level.
Additionally, this newspaper had stated before that one of the greatest challenges Guyana faced in countering domestic violence was in changing the attitudes of the Police, Magistrates, social workers, and health-care providers.
Importantly, too, the lackadaisical attitude of neighbours, relatives, and community leaders who are, in most cases, aware of domestic abuse cases, but yet choose to remain silent also needs to change. Everyone needs to be proactive in their response to the scourge.
We 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. We need to pool our efforts and resources together to save our women.