Sunday, February 18, 2018

Architecture of violence against women


AT the current rate of one woman a week being murdered in domestic violence situations, 2018 seems set to exceed the 50 women killed at the hands of husbands and ex-lovers last year.
 
Confronted with this possibility, the question for the Police Service and other such entities as the Ministry of National Security and the Gender Affairs Unit of the Office of the Prime Minister is what is being done now to prevent such an outcome? 
 
If what they’re doing is more of the same of what was done last year, then we are already condemned to keep counting the dead while burying our heads in the proverbial sand.

While every murder is painful, Friday’s killing of 25-year-old nursery school teacher Kla-Marie Solomon-Cain of Lambeau, Tobago was especially horrific.

Here was a young woman who might have thought she had escaped by seeking refuge at a friend’s home only to be ambushed and hammered to death as she stepped out for work.

As in so many cases of domestic murder, there was a certain inevitability and powerlessness in this killing.
Like so many others who have been killed in similar circumstances, she was marked for death by a man who had determined she must not live.

And in the end, nobody and no agency could prevent him carrying out his plan.
Every such killing leaves us with a bundle of searing questions, almost all of which are pinned on the victim herself.

Did she take the threat seriously enough; did she go to the police; did she take out a restraining order; did she act in time; and most obscene of all-did she choose the wrong partner?

In all of these, the underlying assumption is that the victim’s death is the result of her own action or inaction.
They are no different from the questions asked of rape victims about what they were wearing and why were they where they were when they were attacked.

Violence against women will never be successfully tackled as long we see it as a failure of women to keep themselves safe.

It is only when the society recognises its own responsibility to keep women safe that we would have registered the cultural shift that allows men to see violence as an option for responding to problems in intimate relationships.

If we are honest, we would accept that we are a long, long way from that day.
The loud silence among the country’s opinion leaders and rank-and-file in the global discussion about sexual harassment is immensely revealing.

The boys’ clubs that uphold the status quo of male power and privilege and sanction violence against women are still everywhere intact.

They are in the police stations where reports of violence are not taken seriously; they are in the boardrooms where female employees are dismissed as bitter trouble-makers for standing up for themselves; they are on the streets where it is acceptable to hurl vulgarities at girls and women.

This is the architecture that sanctioned the murder of Kla-Marie Solomon-Cain on Friday. Nothing will change until it is dismantled, piece by piece.