Rebuilding/Monochrome #writephoto

timbered-building
Photo by Sue Vincent

It stood there, a monochrome structure, unusual in appearance as tourists and curiosity seekers descended upon its immaculate grounds like a swarm of locusts.  They came every year to see if it would cave in.  The owners of the property were determined that it never would.  As long as it remained standing, the money would keep coming in.   They made sure it was properly maintained and repaired.

They didn’t, however, imagine that their cash cow would one day go up in flames.  It turned out that the caretaker set the house on fire in an attempt to cover up the accidental death of his girlfriend.  Following a heated argument in his office, he struck her in a fit of rage and she fell, hitting her head against the concrete wall.

Panicking, he grabbed a can of kerosene and doused the place, set the flammable liquid on fire and then fled.  Riddled with guilt and remorse, he turned himself in a couple of days later.   He is serving time in jail for assault, involuntary manslaughter, destroying and concealing evidence and arson.

Tourists still flock to see the burnt remains of the house.  Donations are flooding in for its rebuilding.  The owners are raking in more money now than before.  They are hoping to have the new structure finished by the year 2021.

This was written for the #writephoto Prompt – Monochrome at Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo.

 

Violence Against Women in Guyana

I saw on the news on Friday, November 23, 2012 that Chris Brown had to cancel his concert in Guyana because of women’s rights groups and opposition lawmakers who said Brown would not be welcome in Guyana three years after his assault of Barbadian superstar Rihanna.

Growing up in Guyana I was never knew that there was such a thing as domestic violence or violence against women.  I didn’t know a lot of things until I came to North America.  Perhaps these things existed in the little South American country I called home for fifteen years but it was kept quiet.  People did not talk about their problems publicly like here in North America where people talk so freely about very personal things on television on talk shows.  When  I was in Guyana, we didn’t have television but we had the radio and the movie theaters to entertain us.   I saw movies where women were brutally raped and sometimes killed.

Domestic violence in Guyana is widespread.  The NGOs report a widespread perception that some police officers and magistrates could be bribed to make cases of domestic violence “go away.” The government also does not prosecute cases in which the alleged victim or victim’s family agreed to drop the case in exchange for a monetary payment out of court. NGOs assert the need for a specialized Family Court.

Domestic violence is a problem in all regions of the country. Enforcement of the domestic violence laws is especially weak in the interior, where police do not have as strong a presence and courts meet only once a quarter.    Fortunately, there is help and shelter for victims of domestic violence.  Help and Shelter was founded in 1995 to work against all types of violence, especially domestic and sexual violence and child abuse.  Since its inception it has become a recognised leader in the fight against violence in Guyana, particularly in the areas of domestic, sexual and child abuse.  On their website they make the following statements:

  • Studies of domestic violence in Guyana estimate that between 1 and 2 in every 3 women are victims. We also know that domestic violence against children, against the disabled and against the elderly is endemic
  • Help and Shelter’s mission is to is to work towards the elimination of violence in all its forms by helping to create a society where attitudes to use of violence and practices of violence have been transformed
  • In a client base of over 8,000 persons, 85% are female and 80% victims of spousal abuse

A June 2012 article published in Stabroek News stated that  the 2000 study, which was carried out with the support of the University of Guyana and the University of the West Indies, found that Guyana had one of the highest rates of domestic violence among the Common wealth Caribbean, and that nearly 40 percent of women had experienced domestic abuse (17 June 2012).  A 2010 UN Development Programme (UNDP) survey on citizen security, in which over 11,000 male and female adults in 7 Caribbean countries were interviewed, found that approximately 17 percent of respondents in Guyana had been subject to punching, kicking, of other physical violence by an adult household member, in comparison to the region-wide average of 10.9 percent (UN 2012, 11, 29).

Sources indicate that domestic violence incidents in Guyana are becoming more violent (Stabroek News 17 June 2012) and the number of deaths as a result of domestic violence was increasing in both 2009 (ibid. 17 Feb. 2009) and in 2012 (Help and Shelter 27 Sept. 2012).  According to staff members at Help and Shelter, domestic violence is the leading cause of injury in Guyana for women between the ages of 15 and 44 (Stabroek News 20 Feb. 2011).  Yet, according to the article from UNHCR The UN Refugee Agency, there are problems with the Government, the police and the judicial system.  The police receive training in domestic violence, there is concern that despite the training, the police are still “not very effective” in handling cases of domestic violence.  Women’s rights organizations complain that the police response to domestic violence cases is “unsatisfactory”.

Similarly, the courts’ response to victims of domestic violence is deemed as “unsatisfactory”.  The Guyana Chronicle reports on the sentences meted to perpetrators of domestic violence, including: a sentence of six-weeks imprisonment to a man who threatened to stab the mother of his child in the abdomen (1 July 2012); a sentence of seven-days imprisonment to a man who threatened his reputed wife (20 Apr. 2012); and a fine of $15,000 Guyanese dollars [C$72.61 (XE 3Oct. 2012)], with the alternative option of 10 days imprisonment, to a perpetrator who assaulted the mother of his children (26 June 2012).  Courts were faulted for allowing many of the perpetrators who killed their partners as a result of domestic violence to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter instead of being charged with murder (Stabroek News 15 Apr. 2009).  There were instances where magistrates applied “inadequate sentences after conviction” (US 24 May 2012, 13).

According to a representative of Red Thread, some lawyers were “inhumane” towards victims, and some magistrates do not believe that the Domestic Violence Act is part of Guyanese law (Stabroek News 2 Apr. 2012). The Minister of Human Services reportedly included magistrates among those in need of greater sensitivity towards domestic violence and gender equality (Stabroek News 23 May 2010).

The treatment of violence against women sounds all too familiar.   In India, the government is in-effective when it comes to preventing violence against women.  New Delhi is known as the “rape capital”.  The people of India are rising up now in the wake of the tragic death of the 23 year old woman who was gang raped on the bus by six drunk men.  India’s response in the fight against violence against women has inspired many others, says US playwright-activist, Eve Ensler.  She was in India to address a press conference for her One Billion Rising (OBR) campaign and said after the brutal incident, the “good men around” have also realised that they need to stand with women to fight for the issue because it is not only a women’s issue.  Read more 

It’s time to take action.  Tell the government of Guyana to do something!  Women should not be afraid to report rapes because of fear of stigma, retribution, or further violence.  It’s time to start punishing those guilty of rape and domestic violence.  It’s time to protect women.  A life free of violence is everyone’s right.  It’s time for the government, law enforcement and the courts to take off the band-aid and address this problem.

We can do something to help.  We can educate ourselves and help to raise awareness.  Here are some brochures that you can download and share with your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.  Get the word out–enough is enough.  We want to end violence against women not just in Guyana and India but everywhere.

We can all take responsibility for helping to bring about change, and keeping our friends and colleagues safe from domestic violence”
— Charles Clarke

“For most of recorded history, parental violence against children and men’s violence against wives was explicitly or implicitly condoned. Those who had the power to prevent and/or punish this violence through religion, law, or custom, openly or tacitly approved it. …..The reason violence against women and children is finally out in the open is that activists have brought it to global attention.”
— Riane Eisler

“It’s not enough for women to speak out on the issue – for the message to be strong and consistent, women’s voices must be backed up by men’s.”
–Rep. John Conyers, Jr., Michigan

2006_domestic_violence

Sources:  http://www.cbc.ca/news/arts/story/2012/11/23/chris-brown-guyana.html; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_violence_in_Guyana; http://www.hands.org.gy/; http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/50aa28bf2.html; http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca:8080/RIR_RDI/RIR_RDI.aspx?id=454212&l=e; http://www.demerarawaves.com/index.php/201205253877/Latest/rape-domestic-violence-largely-unchecked-in-guyana-us-report.html

Pakistan’s Senate Passes Domestic Violence Bill

I read this evening on the website for Violence is Not Our Culture about the passing of domestic violence bill in Pakistan.  VNC congratulated their partners Baidarie Sialkot and Shirkat Gah and other civil society groups and women’s human rights activists who have been campaigning over the past few years to pass this bill.

Baidarie Sialkot is a non-government and non-profit organization which was established in 1993 by the rural women of UC Roras who were keen to work for the empowerment and development of the women of the area. It carries out its operations without having religious, lingual, political and social discriminations to motivate the rural communities, particularly women, to take an active part in the social developmental process. The organization strives hard to develop women into active, productive and dynamic citizens of the country.

Shirkat Gah literally means a place of participation. It was formed as a non hierarchical collective in 1975 by a group of women with a shared perspective on women’s rights and development.

The organizations’ fundamental goal was to encourage women to play a full and equal role in society by promoting and protecting the social and economic development of women already participating in, or wanting to participate in, the national development.

The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) bill makes violence against women and children an offence carrying jail terms and fines, state media said.  It was introduced by Senator Nilofar Bakhtiar and passed unanimously by the upper house of the federal parliament, Pakistan Television reported.  It was passed unanimously in the National Assembly, the lower house in parliament almost three years ago in August 2009.  It will come into effect after it is signed into legislation by President Asif Ali Zardari.

Under this bill those found guilty of beating women or children will face a minimum six months behind bars and a fine of at least 100,000 rupees ($1,100).  In addition to protecting children and women, it provides protection to the adopted, employed and domestic associates in a household.

The law classifies domestic violence as acts of physical, sexual or mental assault, force, criminal intimidation, harassment, hurt, confinement and deprivation of economic or financial resources.   In the past if a man beat her wife or children, the police could not arrest him because it was considered a domestic affair.  Now, thanks to the passing of this bill, the police can step in and make an arrest.

Human rights groups say that Pakistani women suffer severe discrimination, domestic violence and so-called “honour” killings.  This means that a victim is murdered for allegedly bringing dishonour upon her family.  I read that in Afghanistan running away from an abusive husband or a forced marriage are considered “moral crimes”, for which women are currently imprisoned.  Rape victims are imprisoned because sex outside marriage, even when the woman is forced, is considered adultery, another “moral crime”.  I cannot believe that the woman who is abused by her husband is imprisoned.  I fail to see how rape can be classified as adultery which is consensual sex between two people outside of marriage.  Rape is not about sex.  It is a violent act.  And rape victims should be protected not treated like criminals.   It would be really great if Afghanistan were to pass a similar bill.

It is believed that the spread of Islamist fundamentalism is increasingly isolating the women in Pakistan, especially in the areas where the Taliban are.  Thankfully this bill will change things in the Pakistani women’s favor.  Men will no longer get away with their crimes.

It is truly a victory for Pakistan and especially the women and children whose rights are finally going to be protected.  This is a testimony that awareness + action = change.

Source:  http://abusehelplines.org/2012/02/21/pakistans-senate-unanimously-passes-domestic-violence-bill/