Nov 18, 2020 Editorial
Kaieteur News – They had three children together, the oldest being eleven. They spent last Friday night in some celebration with relatives but some time during the night, the celebration became an angry confrontation after the relatives had left. She died when he, in response to threatening to leave, stabbed her to the heart in their bed. She was 27.
She was at home with her older sister when he ran up the stairs of the small blue house, took out a Rambo knife and stabbed her viciously to death with it. This was the end of a life of poverty which saw her and her siblings having to struggle after both parents died, and in which she at 14 had succumbed to his predatory advances in order to survive. When she ended it, though married with children, he decided that she would not live. She was 16.
She was with her mother drinking at a shop with several men. When they both left, a man accompanied them home, the mother having bought foodstuff and alcohol before leaving. The mother returned alone to the shop a bit later, her daughter and the man absent. The girl was found the next day, strangled and brutally raped. She was also 16.
These are three cases of the murder of women and girls, the formal word for which is “femicides”, in the past two weeks alone. And they were not simply general femicides but what the sociological literature calls ‘intimate femicides’, meaning the murder was committed by a person, meaning really a man or men, known to the victims. Then there is of course the situation in which elderly women, living alone, are sporadic but significant targets of fatal violence, more often than not connected to robberies but not excluding instances that include sexual violence as well.
In 2017, Guyana registered 35 victims of intimate femicide, almost equal to the combined numbers for Jamaica’s intimate femicides (15) and Trinidad’s total femicides (21) for the same year – it should be noted that both of those countries have populations significantly higher than Guyana’s. According to data provided by a 2019 ECLAC report, Guyana led Latin America and the Caribbean in the rate of femicides per 100,000 of the population, with 8.8, beating the second worst country El Salvador – a country known for rampant gang violence that targets women – which scored 6.6. In short, in terms of incidence of fatalities, Guyana was the deadliest place for women to live in the period under review, 2017-2018.
Femicide, is a multifaceted, multisectoral issue and needs to be treated as such with a comprehensive and sustained long-term intervention. When it comes to intimate femicide, for example, there is a multiplicity of impacts intrinsic to each murder from a public policy perspective. From a public health view, for example, it accounts for a significant number of untimely and preventable deaths of a particular demographic of the country. From a human rights perspective, women remain the only demographic subjected to routine and perennial violence, marked by fatalities, and linked to a specific and unique characteristic. From a socio-economic perspective, you have not one but two economic actors, the male murderer and the female victim, being removed from actively contributing to the society – additionally, you also have the economic burden on either family members or the state in the case of orphans. From a sociological perspective, you have generations of damaged children, many of whom would either have seen the act being committed or would have discovered the body of their mother, sometimes with the killer in the case of murder-suicide.
When it was clear that Guyana had a suicide issue, there was a multi-pronged approach to tackle the issue, both from government and non-governmental organizations. It should be clear to all stakeholders now, led by the Government of Guyana, that something similar, but stronger, has to take place when it comes to the murder of women in this country.
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