Nov 29, 2015 News
By Leonard Gildarie
If you are reading this, the headline is deliberate. I am trying desperately to raise awareness to the issue of domestic violence, and by no means attempting to encourage disrespect or flouting of the law.
I am a peace-loving man with my only aggression focused on my work in the media. I love what I do because I have seen changes over the years. I torment my co-workers, editors and even publisher Glenn Lall to the point of anger, to continuously make improvements and changes. I am never satisfied. It is just who I am.
Any physical aggression on my part may only come from a possible situation where my family or friends are in danger and I would have to step in. I know I won’t be standing idly by.
I believe that relationships and family are built on trust and the ability to communicate. Violence has no part in it. There is no reason for it. And it follows that there can be no excuses for it, either.
In recent years, a number of critical issues have been dominating the news…reports of corruption, robberies, crimes of passion, suicide and depression and domestic violence.
All have been heavily debated, with emotions running high.
I have spoken about suicide and how deeply affected I will remain for a long time by a personal incident that rocked my family to the core. I don’t have permission from my relatives and loved ones to speak about that tragedy, but suicide is something that Guyana has to grapple with for years to come.
It is common knowledge that this country has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. The reason is simple. We are just not doing enough to tackle the issue. Eradicating poverty, training for police, sensitization of the public, continuous education…these are but a few of the steps to be taken. There should be no more talk. It is time for action.
I never paid much attention to it. But a recent incident drew my attention to the huge problem of domestic violence. And I am hearing that not only women suffer from domestic violence, but men too. I don’t have much information on the latter.
The recent incident to which I refer was the death of 31-year-old Melissa Skeete, a dispatcher at the GPHC, who was stabbed and dumped on Carmichael Street.
The suspect reportedly told police he scuffled with the woman in his vehicle and she was stabbed.
Skeete, Kaieteur News reports, supposedly had somebody else and her “child-father” could not handle it. Prior to her death, Skeete had reportedly made a complaint to police, saying she feared for her life.
We were discussing it this week in office and frustration was expressed about the police’s handling of domestic violence. It seems like the issue is a step-child. It is being considered a “man and wife” issue or story.
We have seen too many reports of wives being killed and even murder/suicides, in most cases by jealous husbands. We act after the fact. There are suggestions that police received reports of threats in many cases but failed to act or conduct follow-ups.
What kind of training are our police ranks subjected to regarding domestic violence? Are the laws adequate to address this problem?
In some communities, the abuse of a wife and a “few thumps” are said to be everyday things that barely raise concerns. Yet shock is expressed when the ultimate deed is done.
It calls to mind a nuisance of a neighbour we have in Diamond. He is drunk most of the time and would use the most disrespectful words. He is on a bond to keep the peace.
The police would come at times. One time, they refused to enter his home because he locked himself inside. He started cursing loudly when they left. Nobody can do him anything, he taunts the neighbours.
Now, nobody calls the police. In this case, the system has failed. Why should my Sundays be filled with raucous, loud music coming from a neighbour? Why am I not entitled to the protection of the police? The fact is, the man-in-the-street will tell you that it makes no sense to go to the police. Nothing changes. It is their thinking. It is what the public feels.
We need to figure out ways that will change the perception of how we treat these issues. Is there a hotline? Who handles it? Who knows about it? Why am I not seeing a flashing red public service ad on the television screen advising us to call a particular number?
Figures by the United Nations estimate that of all women who were the victims of homicide globally in 2012, almost half were killed by intimate partners or family members, compared to less than six per cent of men killed in the same year. One in three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence – mostly by an intimate partner. There are lots of figures out there on the internet.
I am yet to see a scientific analysis on the impact the number of suicides and domestic violence has on the development of this country. Even the loss of one person to suicide or domestic violence is too much for this small country.
It affects their children, mothers and fathers, friends…and the list goes on. I have seen the impact too many times.
There are experts in Guyana who will have to move quickly to develop pilot projects in communities which are the most affected to find more permanent solutions to stem the surge. Where are the voices of our religious leaders? It is time we take the fight from the Mandirs, Masjids and the Churches to the televisions and even the National Stadium.
It is time.
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