In response to the domestic violence crisis, The Caribbean Voice beseeches and implores the Government to urgently organise a stakeholders’ focus group to come up with a coherent and concerted action plan for immediate implementation.
By stakeholders we mean organisations that are currently directly involved in gender-based activism – not those who say they are but do nothing, not those who talk, talk and talk but do nothing else and not those who engage in photo ops and pageantry but no concrete action. We also urge that politics be taken out of the equation and that only the passionate and committed, who already give of their time and efforts, be involved.
Consultants are not needed because there is absolutely nothing to consult on. Contractors are not needed because there is nothing to contract out. And consultations are not needed because everyone is aware of the harsh realities on the ground.
In short, bring together all those who are already striving to address the issue, build a plan that is practical and doable and implement it across Guyana, with Government and the Private Sector providing the financial and logistical resources.
Provide the requisite training, develop and deploy signposting, create gatekeepers/first responders in every community, map a network of counsellors nationwide that can almost be immediately available to jump in and help, provide capacity to shelters and safe houses to be able to handle intake, and enhance and nationally extend the victims assistance plan that already exists through the Social Protection Ministry.
Establish trained domestic violence units in every police station with the ability for quick responses and the skillsets to know what to do and how to do it with priority on victims’ safety. Establish strident efforts to ensure that police do not allow themselves to be influenced to dismiss reports, belittle victims, engage in casual investigations that destroy cases and ignore any and every sign that clearly points to abuse and potential for femicide.
Give teeth to the requisite legislation and protection orders, sensitise victims to the concept of safety first, last and always, follow through on all reports taking cognisance that victims will often withdraw complaints or refuse to testify because of threats to self, children and family, economic dependence on abusers and ‘because of the children’. The judiciary system must be advised to maximise all sentencing and convicted abusers must be mandated to periodically report to Police after serving their sentences.
Additionally, all convicted abusers should be publicly listed along with their photos in a registry that would be easily accessible. There are those who would academically argue about rights of abusers but completely ignore the rights of victims and the potential for abuse to be repeated. Furthermore, they completely ignore the fact that there is a mountain of literature and lived experiences that clearly say that every abuser is a potential murderer.
In effect, what to do is very clear. Now, instead of verbiage and rhetoric from officialdom and wastage of resources in piecemeal, ad hoc, infrequent and ineffective action, the political fortitude needs to be displayed to build a network of activism, nationally armed with skillsets and resources to handle this crisis, through stakeholders’ collaboration. The Caribbean Voice stands ready to be part of such a process and, in fact, to assist from the inception with realising the stakeholders’ focus group.
The Caribbean Voice