By Phillip Edward Alexander
I find that I have to keep returning to this growing theme of violence against women rearing its Neanderthal head in our political exchange, and I find again that one of the things I am most surprised at is the silence of civil and even feminist groups over a matter that ought not to be ignored due to its potential to upset the order and injure our development as a lawful and civilized society.
Phillip Edward Alexander is a social and political activist, a feature writer and columnist, the founder of the Jericho Project and the chairman of the Citizen's Union of Trinidad and Tobago
In the recent past we have had the ignoble promise by Fitzgerald Hinds to Penelope Beckles, challenger to the position of political leader in the People's National Movement, of 'bois,' licks with a big piece of wood, as in a stick fight in exchange for her troubles and, as disgusting a development as that was, what was even more disgusting then and remains so now was and is the silence of Hinds' leader and political leader of the party, Keith Rowley.
And following the trend, Fuad Abu Bakr, the son of unapologetic insurrectionist Yasin Abu Bakr, took to the streets of the capital a couple of Fridays ago to mercilessly beat the effigy of this country's female prime minister, Kamla Persad Bissessar, again with a long piece of wood, suggesting among other things perhaps also the possibility of sexual frustration and the concomitant manifestation or 'acting out' to these thoughts and acts.
Where are the Powerful Ladies of Trinidad and Tobago (PLOTT) who are supposed to currently be demonstrating against the violent murder of Senior Counsel Dana Seethahal? Is it that they do not see the correlation of that act in actions such as these, and the dangers therefore to letting them by unchallenged? Where is Diana Mahabir Wyatt? If no one else, surely she should have an opinion on these developments, shouldn't she? Why the silence? Where is Hazel Browne? A powerful and outspoken activist in her own right, does she not see the potential for trickle down violence if these displays are ignored? Mary King? Hazel Manning? Verna St. Rose-Greaves?
And what of the men? Where is Pastor Dottin? Martin Daly? Senator Rolph Balgobin? Aren't these also self styled champions of decency and moral direction? Why no outrage over these examples of depravity and violence against women? What is David Abdulah's position on violence against women? Faris al Rawi? Kirk Waithe? These three are so verbose and willing to volunteer positions on all manner of concerns, why not this?
In response to the discussion on social media, one commentator wrote the following, and I find that I concur enough with the position to share it verbatim and as written:
“You males should never hold public office for your vicious invectives and attacks on female public office holders. What is your intent in office? To shackle women? To relegate them to the kitchen? Seems by your writing and statements that you are tacit abusive and invoking violence on women... how is this so in this 2014 year? I call on you three to issue immediately and written apology to be printed in clear terms in all the major newsprint in Trinidad and Tobago and agree to submit to at least two sessions of gender sensitivity training and counselling. I ask you to put in writing that you strongly condemn any violence against females of any age and any ethnicity and any position in society, be it home maker to public office holder. I especially ask you to arrange a one on one meeting with the prime minister to explain your statements and reckless behaviour and at such you apologize to her and allow the PM to accept this for the good of the nation."
In truth this sort of behaviour cannot be tolerated if we are serious about becoming a first world nation. In many of those these statements would have been challenged by the authorities simply because the civilized are only too aware that actions first begin on thought, but also that example and response creates the new normal, and may lead the less restrained or evolved to act out these otherwise mispronounced and misconceived fantasies.
It is imperative that there be consequence to this behaviour and it must be public.
The offenders MUST apologize to all women and offer to make amends. We are bound by this to undo the culture of hatred and violence against women that permeates our society and a clear and unambiguous message must be sent. In direct response we must insist on taking public steps to cement our women as deserving of both our respect and our protection.
Anything else is foolishness and distraction in my view and ought to be rejected.