For some time I had planned to write about the epidemic of abuse, disrespect and violence against women. Just as I was about to do so, the story of the President’s wife broke out. I did not want to start at that level because on the face of it she was a woman seen as being in high society. The abuse of women, ranging from brutality to barbarity with many forms between touches all classes of women. A woman calypsonian (Calypso Rose, I think) advised her sisters many years ago to leave: “Fowl does run,” she reminded them in taunting song. Now, attempts to run may be fatal and are often so.
Somehow, the image that still affects me is the image of a woman’s limp body taken out of a septic tank. At least they did not silence her in retaliation. They lived to see the next amazing morning. Women have been assaulted, not all by men thank goodness, but assaulted in war and in peace, in riot and in quiet, at work and in sport. It is quite a disgrace and mainly for us, the men, the main offenders.
You can bet that when there are dozens of men with fat, overflowing pockets bulging with drug money, they feel bound to entrap extra women. Abuse of women existed always and offenders were not waiting on Mr Jagdeo for inspiration. But he gave it a spur by the way he behaved. A very keen male writer argued that the marriage was a game between the President and his partner. I am quite happy with people who agree to marry without the law, once they agree on that way. It is not a moral issue, but a legal one. A clever male writer found that the whole marriage episode had probably been agreed between the President and his partner. Even so, it is certain that she did not agree to any plot to be treated like a homeless person. Her statement even spoke of her love for him. And if it was a game, it was well planned. Here were two lovers being married on a revolutionary day, July 26, a date no doubt chosen in honour of the Cuban revolution.
At this point I wish to congratulate Mr Jagdeo’s aide-de-camp who resigned after he had been ordered to expel friends and family of Ms Varshnie Singh from the President’s box during the Cricket World Cup. I do not remember the man being celebrated by the print media. I wonder why. The officer resigned dramatically after this incident. The President’s advisers took it in their stride.
What can be done to make life better for women in every cottage, every flat, every bungalow, every manicole house on a river bank?
Walter Rodney reminds us (History of the Guyanese Working People) that in 1905 there was a Mortality Commission sitting in Georgetown because of the extraordinary number of deaths. To be very practical, I think it would be a good idea to have a commission of enquiry on the abuse of women. It should take evidence in public and in private, and learn from all who wish to come forward and discuss the subject. Serious investigation by serious people, not party hacks, which should reveal the circumstances in which these acts of intimidation, brutality and cowardice take place. The report can be a guide to education, especially male re-education and to social policy.
Thanks to a press release from Mr Rickford Burke, a Guyanese rights activist in New York, I just learned of the case of Mrs Joyce Hoyte. If the release is accurate, the late President Hoyte had never been paid his the pension due to him as President. This pension was also never paid to his widow.
Mr Burke and the late President were people in a political camp opposed to mine. This statement is not in solidarity with friends. It is against a level of political spite that is really unthinkable.
Even former President, Mrs Jagan, a co-founder of Women’s Political and Economic Organisation, is accused. The denial began under her illustrious husband of the new Global Human Order. Close to International Women’s Day and the Global Women’s Strike, I remind readers, and PPP readers in particular, that Moses, Jesus, Mohammed (OWBP), Abdul Baha, Frederick Douglass a former slave and Gandhi all supported women’s rights, including in some cases their right to property.
Let us have that commission please. It can have the power to reveal and to heal.