Not just any woman

Comments attributed to Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Education of St Vincent and the Grenadines Mrs Girlyn Miguel, who was recently quoted on the internet news website I-Witness as exhorting women of that island nation to “dress properly” so that they don’t tempt men, sparked outrage – not only among Vincentians but also among other readers on the world wide web as the article was quickly spread via Facebook and Twitter. But, surprisingly, to some, a fair number of people – women and men – supported what Mrs Miguel said.

Mrs Miguel, who is the only woman minister in a ten-member Cabinet as well as the only female government parliamentary representative, took what was so obviously a golden opportunity to speak to men about their behaviours and trampled upon it. Instead, she chose to lambaste women, particularly young women, blaming them for being “abused, refused and accused” by men mainly because of their choice of dress.

One would hope that the Minister would have addressed other issues as well, and not just her angst about women’s mode of dress. If not, there is no doubt that her address will go down as one of the all-time most ignorant and self-loathing of parliamentary speeches. Mrs Miguel referred to women exposing their breasts, when the “big uses” of these organs are to nurse their babies and comfort their husbands, drawing chuckles from her male counterparts. Kowtowing further to the men in the House, she later pleaded that if women “do not do the things which are right, we do not have to kill them, we do not have to chop them we need to have that love in our hearts.” This statement, perhaps more than the reference to young women’s mode of dress, reveals Mrs Miguel’s misogyny. To her, women are the villains for not doing the “right” things and she therefore aligns herself with the men, “we do not have to kill them.”

Mrs Miguel, who according to the Vincentian government’s website, was an educator for 30 years before entering politics, is no greenhorn in the House either, having first become an MP 13 years ago. Sadly, instead of being celebrated because of her achievements, Mrs Miguel stands out as a beacon for why women should not be elected or selected simply because of their feminine gender. Hers is the kind of narrow thinking that women should avoid like the plague. For the record, how a woman dresses has very little to do with abuse, particularly rape. Men who abuse women, physically and sexually, do so for power, control and out of hatred for the female species.

According to the I-Witness website, statistically, St Vincent and the Grenadines is the “femicide capital of the eight-member Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.” With three women murdered already in less than three weeks of this year, and the rampaging increases in such crimes in previous years, Guyana is also looking at record-breaking statistics. A great many of the murders of women, including the latest on Tuesday of 32-year-old Rushelle Rodney are the culmination of years of spousal abuse. There was also an increase last year in the number of murders of elderly women who lived alone, pointing to either a serial killer(s) or opportunistic scum who set out to prey on the vulnerable.

The Domestic Violence Act, touted as one of the successes of the previous administration has done squat to protect women from being maimed and killed by the men who would have already abused them for most of their lives. And it seems clear that the Guyana Police Force lacks the capacity to pursue investigating along the line of serial killings or opportunistic ones for that matter. The murder of 66-year-old Bebe Jahooral Banu, whose body was discovered on January 1, joined four other cases of elderly women that remain unsolved from last year.

These are the issues the women of Guyana will expect their parliamentary representatives – particularly the women – to move to have addressed. The promises of a more inclusive Parliament, with members’ days that actually count will ensure that this is done. We have the faith that not even our greenest MP will do ‘a Girlyn.’

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