By now it is apparent that when Guyanese go big they really go big, what with our high suicide rate, our high maternal and neonatal mortality rate, our high road fatality rate, our high incidence of gun related crimes and now our high femicide/uxoricide rate.
While these skyrocketing figures in themselves are cause for serious concern, the femicide rates cry out for a new high in criminal punishment, and a look at factors that seemingly have been overlooked. In fact, if the powers that be in Guyana can be charged with any omission, it is a failure to examine and learn from this ongoing spiralling crisis.
What underpins this current display of male aggression? Has the legal system played any part in providing solutions, or does it itself contribute to the problem? The overall handling of this problem and its continued pervasiveness can be listed as one of the blunders of both the previous and present governments.
A walkout, a demand, a threat of separation is taken by many Guyanese men to represent desertion, rejection, an attack on their masculinity, and a blow to their ego. What part of ‘no’ do these males fail to grasp? In the book Every man in his humour by English Renaissance dramatist Ben Jonson, the following is said: “Is there a thing in nature so mortifying to the pride of man as to find oneself rejected and despised by a woman who is conscious of her power and triumphs in her power and triumphs in her cruelty.” Could Guyana, the Eldorado of the Caribbean, once again be the first country to mass produce males with a proclivity to femicide, and with a preference for a particular type of weapon?
One theory about spousal abuse notes that the almost universal characteristic in the background of both wife batterers and wife killers is a history of abuse, either as victim or witness. If any credence is to be afforded this theory, then one can immediately ask in which era did these present-day Guyanese ‘killers’ receive their training, and whose tutelage are they mimicking? If violence is a learned response pattern, then I dare say this bears testimony to the fact that they have learned well. In the context of traditional views of masculine and feminine roles, present day Guyanese women like other women in the diaspora find themselves in a no-win/Catch 22 situation. A woman having more education, earning more money, or having more power in the community than her spouse/ partner, does not conform to the accepted feminine model. Such a situation threatens the very core of her husband’s masculinity, producing frustration that in some cases could eventually lead to stress and abuse.
Former Guyanese culture taught little girls to be nurturing, compliant and a good little passive wives. On the other hand little boys learnt to be strong, aggressive and act as the husband or man in charge.
This scenario sets the stage upon which later violence gets played out. Currently the perpetrators of femicides could profit from intense anger management classes, continued supervision and possibly being listed in a registry of spousal abusers/violent offenders. There should be government-run programmes where potential or probable batterers can speak with someone before they act. It is equally important that the schools start teaching youngsters both male and female about relationships, breakups and how to deal with breakups. It is apparent that what constitutes provocations are typically related to males, so that the doctrine of provocation is implicitly male oriented.
Concomitantly, it should take into account the fact that a woman should know that having an affair or leaving is likely to provoke ab abusive response.
Included in the list of likely provocative behaviour are incitatory verbal utterances on the part of the female. Let me once again repeat, that there is never an excuse to lay hands on a woman, let alone take her life.
However, the issue is not one sided; simply talking about what the males should not do is not enough. Women’s groups need to step up immediately to the plate, ready to bat with conferences/workshops/training sessions/de-escalation techniques all geared to helping women ensure that they won’t do anything that would provoke wrong actions. Such a goal is certainly not unattainable.