In the Kaieteur News of 5 August, 2013 it is reported that Minister Jennifer Webster has urged women to “Get out immediately” from “abusive relationships.” There is a certain sickness in how the government has failed to implement all of the actions in the National Domestic Violence Policy which was launched in 2008. This failure is also evident in the inability of the Minister and her government to convene and support a Domestic Violence Oversight Committee which was expected to monitor the implementation of the policy. There is also the related issue of the National Sexual OfficesTask Force which has not been convened.
Ms Bibi Houston has reported that she contacted the police, including on that fatal afternoon. Calling the police is one part of the ‘Getting out.’ Minister Webster has not indicated whether she and her colleague Minister Rohee will deal with the failure of sections of the Guyana Police Force to respond to domestic violence and sexual violence. The National Domestic Violence Policy calls for the establishment of Domestic Violence Units.
It is surely beneficial, given the reality that some police seem not to be able to implement the ‘zero tolerance’ approach, to staff these Units with the police who are compassionate and skilled in dealing with domestic violence. Minister Webster and her colleagues have not made any progress on ensuring that the Guyana Police Force provides a consistent service across the country, which is not based on the whims and desires of individual policy.
It is unfortunate that the Minister is not aware that the risk of violence intensifies when the decision is made to get out of the relationship, as Ms Houston’s experience has shown.
Saying ‘Get out of the relationship’ is easy, but when the state cannot provide the services required to ensure that those who are victims of domestic violence are safe and that perpetrators are quickly brought to justice and exposed to rehabilitation and counselling, then saying ‘Get out’ seems like an insult to all of those who have attempted to get out, but were still left alone and with no resources to deal with the violence and its consequences.