'...Act of torture, inhumane judgment'
A LESSON to people following an act of "torture" or an inhumane judgment for a woman who needs help?
These were the two differing views from civil society on mother of four Kamla Ramcharan being sentenced to three years for burning the hand of her eight-year-old daughter.
Chairperson of the T&T Coalition Against Domestic & Gender-Based Violence Diana Mahabir-Wyatt expressed her hope that the sentence "will be a lesson and a message to other people in Trinidad and Tobago who have not evolved past that stage".
On Monday, Ramcharan received the sentence in Chaguanas after she admitted holding her child's hand on a hot tawah—a circular, flat iron skillet used to make roti —after the girl was accused of stealing.
"She deliberately planned it. She heated up the tawah and planned what was basically torture," Mahabir-Wyatt commented.
She added: "That a parent would do to child, eight years old, is appalling."
Mahabir-Wyatt noted that Ramcharan showed no sense of remorse or compunction, and this was probably a reflection that this type of punishment was used against her as a child.
She noted she has three other children and expressed hope that during her period in prison, she will get some counselling, basic training in parenting, stress management and some help when she gets out in dealing with bringing up her children.
Spokesperson for Women Working for Social Progress Merle Hodge did not agree with Ramcharan being imprisoned and said in that situation, a parent "needs help and not jail".
"It is a most inhumane judgment," she added.
She advised in that situation, the woman should be put on a bond, noting her children will be placed "God knows where". She said the family needs attention and a social worker to help her develop other ways of dealing with discipline.
Hodge commented that the country was too "heartless"; we are "addicted to punishment in this place" and needed a culture change.
Like Mahabir-Wyatt, she expressed hope that Ramcharan will receive counselling while imprisoned but was not aware if these provisions existed.
Mahabir-Wyatt said it was not uncommon for parents to use these types of extreme measures against children 50 years ago, but she thought those days were "long gone". She added the Coalition "gets reports all the time" of these types incidents, but "it shouldn't happen".
"I don't know what to say, in 2012, we still have people who are that deficient in education, sensitivity and emotion al intelligence to try to use this kind of brutality on a small child," she said.
She noted that currently, people were reporting these incidents more than decades ago. She also noted that for over 40 years, the Coalition has been campaigning against corporal punishment, and Servol (Service Volunteered for All) and religious organisations have been providing parenting classes. She said this type of education needed to reach the people who need it.
"So they know, by and large, (it is) equivalent to torture in concentration camps," he said.
She called for new National Security Minister Jack Warner to focus on the community policing aspect of 21st century policing as a return to the "Flying Squad" unit will not address domestic violence and child abuse.