January 2020

Post 360.

In the wake of the murder of Naiee Singh, Gabriella Du Barry, Pollyann Khan (and her family) and Jezelle Phillip, it’s important to counter misinformation.

First, men’s rights representatives have been spreading misguided analyses that create public confusion. Postings on their Facebook page repeatedly highlight videos of women physically beating men and loudly quarrelling with them to emphasise “the drama, the trauma, the stress, the pressure, the abuse, the patience exercised, the humility applied” by men, which – the argument goes – no one sees when focus is on femicide.

Amidst poverty and depression, men’s rights representatives’ position is that men turn to murder because “when they getting home is stress again”. Media portrays the man as the “bad guy” and the woman the victim, but, according to them, it’s really the opposite – men’s killing of women is merely a “reaction” to the wrongs which broke their stability. Thus, men’s rights advocates’ essential message is that women are toxic and men behave as they do because they suffered silently and invisibly while women destroy them through abuse, infidelity and the courts.

Their key recommendation is that “better behaviour” by both wives and husbands needs to be created to stop the lethal stabbing, shooting and beating of women by their partners and ex-partners. This language echoes the AG’s statement a few weeks earlier that, “it’s true to say that both sexes have trouble with rejection”. It also reflects state agencies’ apolitical attention to “family violence”, an apparently gender-neutral problem perpetrated by both women and men with equivalent frequency and severity.

All these create resounding lack of clarity. The murders of women this year alone show us why. In contrast to the argument of provocation being spuriously promoted, none of these women was having an argument, being violent or abusing the men who killed them. They were only attempting to get up in the morning, go to work and move on.

Posting videos of women being violent to their partners when women are being slain for the crime of merely wanting to live their lives not only shows disturbing lack of compassion, it also dangerously misleads. It excuses homicide by men on the basis of supposed relationship conflict between women and men. It fails to concede that women have no responsibility for a partner capable of premeditated killing in cold blood.

Second, it is statistically untrue to say that both sexes respond to “rejection” with deadly violence , so why erase the fact that homicidal responses are deeply connected to widely shared ideals of masculine authority, control and power? These very ideals fuel men’s killing of other men by the hundreds per year. Indeed, male suicide, male partner violence, and violence among men form a well-established “triad of violence” grounded in these ideals.

Therefore, men’s killing of women is not a response to relationship rejection. These women endured and escaped chronic threat and abuse, in forms which are criminal offences. They didn’t “jilt” a lover. They rejected terror and harm. They left a crime scene. Call it for what it is.

Women can be violent and both partners in relationships must choose to resolve conflict and communicate in non-violent ways, particularly if there are children who will suffer the inter-generational trauma of witnessing abuse between adults.

However, the killing of women, just like rape and sexual assault by male non-partners (affecting one in ten women) and like male sexual abuse of girls (affecting one in five women) will not end because of women’s improved behaviour. Express’ Tuesday headline, “She was the perfect wife” should convince us of that. It should also remind us of the risks of public confusion such that, even in death, the media reckoned with the extent to which Naiee Singh was or was not at fault.

We need men in a broad national effort to stop men’s killing of women. We don’t need men to enter a well-informed, global movement to oppose, simplify or sound clever in ways which, somehow, women never thought of all this time. There’s a reason for the focus on perpetration rather than mainly telling victims to leave. There’s a reason for attention on transforming masculinity and power and not only addressing emotions and mental health. Poverty, depression and suicidal feelings are all triggers of men’s violence against women, but they are not the cause. There’s a reason martial arts isn’t a national solution. Such murder has no excuse. The AG, like all men, must simply, unreservedly amplify women’s right to live and leave in peace.




Post 359.

A gender-based violence (GBV) unit is being established by the TTPS. Expectations are high and likely beyond what police response can provide, because real solutions require that policing be integrated with legal amendments, social services, NGO partnerships, data-driven strategies, community buy-in, and cultural change.

Hope is that the unit can coordinate TTPS approaches to intimate partner violence, domestic violence and sexual violence in order to, among other goals, reduce the number of women killed.

Only about 7% of women report intimate partner violence (IPV) to the police. Of those that report experiencing partner violence in their lifetime, about 25% do not report. If the TTPS implements measures to make reporting easier, kinder and safer, such as through taking reports from victims at their homes rather than at a station, those numbers could increase. What happens then?

The whole system, from hotlines to victim and witness support services to shelters to the magistrate and family courts, will have to be prepared for a surge in demand when women believe that reporting could lead to real protection and conviction. We won’t be sure if increased numbers reflect a rise in violence or a decrease in fear and silence, but forecasting these scenarios by the GBV unit is necessary.

It’s the same with orders of protection. If around 10 000 are sought every year, what happens when better policing means they become easier to secure and more likely to be enforced through better record keeping of women’s reports, timely serving of summons, lethality assessments, and other follow up?

There were 579 breaches of protection orders in five years, 174 breaches in 2019 alone. If these men are going to end up in jail, and they should – for breaching a protection order is a deliberate crime, are we prepared to provide mandatory counselling for perpetrators, to implement a restorative approach, and to find ways of making these repeat offenders less likely to get back out of jail and kill? Women report fear for their lives when perpetrators are released, particularly when women are not informed by the prison system. Better policing is also going to require forecasting implications in relation to perpetrators.

The GBV Unit can do a number of things: continue to clarify the law for all police officers, not just those with oversight of GBV or DV crimes; continue to educate all police about established protocols with regard to domestic violence reports; recognize that police may be friendly with perpetrators, may be perpetrators and may discourage reporting; and include outreach to migrant women so they know that they can safely report GBV crimes, which are a violation of their human rights, without fear of deportation or greater vulnerability to traffickers.

The unit can also establish a case study approach to better understand how to reduce men’s killing of women who have applied for orders of protection, and make sure the Domestic Violence Register is being actively engaged. It should work closely with the Child Protection Unit, Victim and Witness Support Unit, and Family Court to share rather than duplicate data. It’s also possible that DV reports can anticipate child sexual abuse reports, and the Unit will need to understand the intersection of different forms of GBV in this way.

CAPA doesn’t currently make perpetrator data easily accessible. As we continue to emphasise understanding and ending perpetration, and not only telling women to recognize “red flags”, sex-disaggregated data that supports this advocacy is also necessary.

The Unit should not start from scratch. The Coalition Against Domestic Violence has already been working with TTUTA to develop and implement the school programme, “Education for Empathy and Equality”. The Sexual Culture of Justice project is producing a toolkit for the Police Academy with protocols for training new police officers on issues of LGBTI bias and gender based violence. It also highlights the particular vulnerability of transgender persons, which is part of the problem of under-reporting.

Caricom recently published procedures for collecting data on domestic violence which may eliminate some obstacles to filling out report forms. CAFRA has been undertaking gender sensitization with police for decades, and the Network of Rural Women Producers has been working with youth and police in the police youth clubs, using the UN He For She Campaign and the Foundations Programme, to promote gender equality.

A civil society advisory committee to provide guidance and ensure accountability is key. The Unit has the opportunity to get things right before getting them wrong. Women’s lives are at stake. Fear and outrage demand urgency.

Post 358.

In the spirit of being fed up with obscenely selfish, offensively short-sighted and obstinately stupid practices, words I’ll be forced to repeat over the next months, I want to know what would it take to stop the harm of fireworks and why it can’t be done in one year? Why must NGOs, from animal welfare organisations to umpteen citizen groups, have to write letters to the editor and sign petitions simply for basic consideration and protection?

It’s very simple. Fireworks, and particularly scratch bombs which are the loudest, totally illegal and potentially hazardous, are imported and sold with the effect of repeat trauma and injury to elderly, sick, the very young, domesticated animals, people with PTSD and disabilities, and a range of others.

In Santa Cruz, where I live surrounded by mountains, I’ve always cringed for the wildlife, baby animals and birds asleep in their nooks and nests and awoken with terror. And, while my dog trembled uncontrollably, I’ve wondered at being surrounded by the kind of God-fearing hypocrites who could drop bombs on the innocent and laugh callously.

If you sell fireworks, you are simply lining your pockets at others’ cost. If you don’t get why your fun should not cause others to suffer, may bandits raid your house and beat you (see metaphor extended in paragraph below) so that you can get a taste of why doing what you want because you decide you want isn’t its own justification.

There was an entire parliamentary joint select committee on this issue, with the report laid on May 25, 2018. I read all 201 pages, and it’s enough to make you laugh if you don’t first cry.

There’s a legislative framework to be reformed in all kinds of ways that will never happen and will be of limited consequence on the ground. Getting from complaint to conviction, such as in relation to the hole in Vaneisa Baksh’s roof from some unidentifiable person’s fireworks, is unrealistic, the process is circuitous and any complainant needs court clothes.

One recommendation is for police to drive about in increased numbers to prevent people from being both uncaring and irresponsible. All and sundry, from the EMA to the Fire Services must jump hoops with measuring tape and with public education messages on Beyond the Tape, to convince us to exercise concern for each other. Holistic data collection on a litany of health risks must be conducted by UWI and the San Fernando General Hospital to tell us what we already know from watching with our eyes open, and to tell us about alternatives easily found in the first ten hits on Google.

My daughter may love fireworks as all of us do, but its cowardly to put our children as an excuse for such harm. Bandits love to run up in people’s home with two guns between them, and they certainly feel a right to, but that doesn’t make it right either. Another generation has to be allowed higher standards, exemplified by us being thoughtful about those more vulnerable because of illness, age and trauma, and about the animals God supposedly gave us dominion over.

If children were presented with the stories of how animals are harmed, you may be surprised what they all agree to forgo while the entitled adults around them fight up to evolve. You may be surprised at their own commonsense suggestions, for zoning to specific public places, limited times and limited decibel ranges, and the expansion of laser displays and ‘noiseless’ fireworks.

The next time fireworks are likely to kill another kangaroo will be at public expense for Independence Day. In its celebratory display, the state can act immediately to set an example of leadership for the greater good and for another generation. It’s so easy, and everyone will learn to respect the philosophy of respecting everybody, including the other living beings around us. No legislative amendments or implementation roadmap required.

Within one year, it could be one significant change that puts us on the world map like the little Italian town which legislated the change to quieter fireworks and the communities that have switched to laser shows.

It’s simple consumer power for more considerate alternatives. It’s citizen demand for city and regional corporations to light up a sustainable approach as we mark our independence. It’s old-school public pressure on ourselves and neighbours to not be Neanderthals masquerading as hominids. I’m constantly calling for the government to do better, and it can, but this time, plainly, it’s also on us.