In the face of growing assaults against and murders of women by men, the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) has labelled patriarchy a public health concern and called for an intense public education programme targeting boys and girls.
The human rights body noted that patriarchy has been deeply internalised by both men and women for generations and therefore extremely difficult to challenge. Therefore, it said, the notion that the empowerment of women can occur independently of dissolving patriarchal attitudes is an illusion. “Gender empowerment is more of a zero sum game than we like to think,” the GHRA said in its statement, which was released last week to commemorate International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
It noted that patriarchal attitudes are displayed “each time a man decides his new wife can no longer work, or the minibus driver insists on playing songs demeaning to women, or a father arranges a marriage requiring [that] his daughter be pulled out of school, or the police officer dismisses as trivial a sexual offence complaint by a woman,” and these situations must be challenged, it said.
It also urged challenges to men’s “unquestioned” privilege to arrange life to their convenience and what they believe to be in the best interests of their wives, daughters, girlfriends, servants, or other women over whom they exercise power, as this is not compatible with the full enjoyment of women’s rights.
But it noted too that it was in the frustration caused by challenges to decisions traditionally in men’s domain that the potential for violence against women lurks.
The GHRA stated that power operates in relationships and transfer of this power would transform disordered, violence-prone relationships of domination and repression into well-ordered, dignified ones.