The cartoon in the Sunday Stabroek of March 30, highlights the inability of the government to fulfil its commitments to dealing with domestic violence. The interview with Ms Benn of the Women’s Studies Unit of UG in the same edition of Stabroek News also speaks to the failure to have a co-ordinated national response.
Many NGOs and community organisations are doing their part in raising awareness at different levels. Many work to provide support services. There is a limit to that work since the government is responsible for ensuring that there are appropriate responses from the police and courts, the health system and the social services.
While training is necessary, it would be useless if there are no policies to ensure that those who are trained are actually doing what they should do to support persons who decide to get out of abusive relationships and to ensure that perpetrators can do no more harm.
We can only think of the young girl running to the police to ask them to come because her father was threatening to burn down the house and kill them, and the apparent lack of urgency on the part of the police to help her. The irony is that the police by now would have gone through the domestic violence training which is supposed to be part of the standard Guyana Police Force training.
The other issue is that some kinds of activities like training and seminars are easy-to-fund, one-off events, but the recurrent costs for accessible counsellors and support advocates is not easily available as any of the NGOs will report. The recurrent costs for monitoring to ensure that all persons are doing their jobs with the appropriate resources have to be provided.
The failure of the government, especially the Ministry of Human Services to ensure that the state is accountable is demonstrated by a listing on the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security website (http://www.mlhsss.gov.gy accessed March 31, 2014 and which has some current items). The website lists the National Domestic Violence Committee Policy Committee and the first member is “Hon Minister Priya Manichand [sic], MP – Minister of Human Services & Social Security.” The current Minister of Human Services has not bothered to reconvene the National Domestic Violence Policy Oversight Committee or to provide a Domestic Violence Unit. The last policy which was launched in July 2008, and which was not implemented, expired in 2013.
The ministry might want to take refuge in ‘writing another policy’ as cover for not doing anything to actually ensure that the state agencies do what they are supposed to do. The Minister of Human Services and her colleagues must explain their reluctance to provide the co-ordinated response to domestic violence. The last National Domestic Violence policy provides an excellent framework from which to start.