News that the Government of Guyana in collaboration with the European Union and United Nations has launched a $1bln project to combat domestic violence is to be welcomed on the eve of International Day Against Domestic Violence.
At a function to launch the project, Minister Vindhya Persaud was reported as saying; “We must ask ourselves why violence continues to be pervasive and persistent. The heart-rending cries of women who are beaten, chopped stabbed, raped, brutalized and yes, killed in this most horrific form of gender oppression has propelled us to embark on a pivotal partnership with the UN and EU significantly improve the conditions of women foster their empowerment and work to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence.”
The Minister went on to call on the public ‘to not hesitate to report cases of abuse.’ She informed that a ‘914 Helpline’ will be introduced by her ministry “to facilitate the reporting of domestic and sexual violence.”
The call by the Minister to ‘report cases of abuse’ is instructive. Her call should not be interpreted as one directed only to the abused but to others who may have heard the constant quarrels, the blows and the screams but did not answer to the calls for help leaving the abused at the mercy of the assailant.
The establishment of a 914 Helpline is an urgent necessity. It is hoped that the technical problems encountered with the establishment of the National 911 Emergency System would not be repeated.
In the first half of 2014 in the last PPP/C government, there were 1,743 reports of domestic violence across the country.
The highest occurrence of cases were; in Georgetown and the East Bank, West Demerara, Berbice and the East Coast. In that order.
The majority of victims were females with men as victims to a lesser extent.
The majority of domestic violence cases reported to the police were assaults, threatening and abusive language. There were also cases of abuse with threats, assault and abuse, wounding, and assault causing actual bodily harm among others.
Actions taken by the police included taking statements, warnings, arresting and charging and placing before the court. That was six years ago. Since then, domestic violence has taken on a more gruesome and bloody character.
Thus far, for 2020 we have had six horrendous and ghastly domestic violence occurrences:
In January, Bibi Sabeeda Ally called ‘Annette’ from Crane, West Coast Demerara was stabbed multiple times to death by her husband while she slept;
In March, Natoya Speede-King a mother of three was chopped to death at the Bartica airstrip by her husband from whom she was separated for some time;
In August, a fifty-seven year old woman of Good Hope, Ruby, was brutally murdered following a feud involving her son and neighbours;
In October, Clarabel Johnson called ‘Bella’ a mother of three of Albouystown, Georgetown was chopped to death by her former reputed husband;
In November, 24 year-old, mother of three, Amrita Rahim called ‘Sally’ of Rosignol West Bank Berbice was stabbed by her husband while she lay on her bed;
Again in November, Sanesha Lall a sixteen year old girl from Richmond Housing Scheme, Essequibo was stabbed to death twenty times by a man with whom she had an abusive relationship.
In all six occurrences, it was only when the press visited the scene of the crime or the neighbourhood where the crime was committed that relatives, as well as neighbours would publicly admit knowing that the relationship between the victim and the attacker was abusive with constant quarrels, harassment and threats, yet everyone kept to themselves claiming that the relationship was ‘on and off,’ that ‘teeth and tongue must bite’ and ‘look, leh we nah get involved in dem people story.’
In the end, it was the woman who ended up being murdered brutally by either her husband, ex-husband or estrang-ed lover. It was only after the brutal murder that all who knew, what they knew, but kept quiet all along would start talking.
Experience has shown that Neighbour-hood and Community Police can play an important role in detecting and preventing potential occurrences of domestic violence, child maltreatment and molestation, attempted rape, intimate partner violence, drug trafficking and drunken and abusive behaviour in neighbourhoods.
With this in mind, steps should be taken to recruit one social worker per police station or outpost.
They should be attached to specific station districts and integrated into the community and neighbourhood police activities as well as the Cops and Faith Com-munity Network established in 2013 to help in reducing incidents of domestic violence among other primary, secondary and tertiary levels of crime in communities.
At the same time a corresponding number of Community and Neighbourhood Police should be recruited and integrated into the arrangement mentioned above.
In mid-2014 I took a paper to cabinet requesting an increase of 100 Neighbour-hood Police ranks. I also requested recruitment of 70 trained social workers to work along with the Neighbourhood Police. Cabinet approved my request to recruit the 100 Neighbourhood Police but with regard to the social workers I was advised to ‘work it out’ with the Ministry of Human Services and Social Protection since that Ministry was responsible for recruiting and deploying social workers.
With elections looming on the horizon my proposal was overtaken by the campaign leading up to the 2015 general and regional election.
The launch of the UN/EU/ GOG project to combat domestic violence is not only timely, it is badly needed and would breathe new life into the on-going fight against domestic violence, child abuse and molestations and intimate partner violence.
The project’s urgent implementation must not be impeded by bureaucrats who have a passion for heaping paper on paper, creating procedures and making promises before helping victims.
Clement J. Rohee