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Within recent days there has been one too many reports on spousal abuse/domestic violence. Even one is one too many, communicating to society there is a problem on our hands and a problem that cannot be walked away from or hope it resolves itself. The world, including Guyana, has come a far way from the days when men were considered superior and women inferior or property. Achievement of equal rights does not only mean women working out of the home and voting, but it also means they should not be violated or treated as inferior.
It should be a matter of history to accept the belief love means allowing oneself to be abused by a partner. The United Nations (UN) defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, or mental harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.” Work done by successive governments and non-governmental organisations to eliminate spousal/relationship abuse, laudable it be, much remains to be done. There is no magic bullet or one-size fit all in dealing with abusive behaviours.
The issue remains complex in our society where conditions such as poverty, sole breadwinner, unemployment, fear, and cultural predisposition remain challenges to confront in domestic relationships. The power dynamic cannot be overlooked. Guyana is no stranger to influential public figures, including at the highest office, abusing their spouses and sections of society turned a blind eye or sought to excuse it. When any society is conditioned to think the powerful can get away with violence, but the ordinary man is condemned or charged, it becomes harder to stop the violence. It also emboldens the ordinary man to believe he can act likewise and get away with it.
Violence is a crime. And though socio-economic deprivation could make it harder for the abused to leave because of dependency on the abuser, ways have to be found to provide the needed support for empowerment. The abused does not have to stay in an abusive relationship and should be given the necessary support to report to the police and the allegation taken seriously by law enforcement, and other interventions. It is ok not to accept being abused and not ok to abuse another be you man, woman or child.
Guyanese know gender-based violence leads to suicide, which for many is the only way out, and our suicide rate is the highest in the world. UN Women Caribbean webpage reports, “1 in every 2 women in Guyana has or will experience Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in their lifetime.” This figure is astounding and speaks to a behaviour that is criminal and unacceptable. Said page stated a national survey in Guyana on gender-based violence “revealed that more than half (55%) of all women experienced at least one form of violence, [and] more than one in ten have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from a male partner in the past 12 months.” Domestic violence is a public health threat in Guyana. It must stop.