The aptness of the theme for observance in 2017 for International Day for Elimination of Violence Against Women cannot be over emphasized.
The Guyana Association of Women Lawyers (GAWL) is of the view that the theme “Leave no one behind- End Violence Against Women and Girls” provides the clearest reminder that domestic violence is the business of an entire society. Violence against women and girls is as wrong as inter- personal violence. No man has any right to hit, shoot, stab a woman or perpetrate emotional or mental stress on her. There is most naturally no justification for this in a household or relationship.
As a society, men must be guided to recognise other options for resolution of domestic disputes. This is essential regardless of whether it is disagreement in the home, or in workplace relationships. Further, agencies such as the Guyana Police Force must have specific programmes in place to teach officers and ranks on how to handle domestic disputes among the public and in their own lives. Yielding to passion always leads to deadly consequences. Incidents which leave one partner disabled or deceased and the other incarcerated provide no useful outcomes for our society and resolve nothing.
Women, like men and children, have a right to function as mothers, daughters, partners and beneficial members of society. They must be allowed to do so. There is no person who has a superior right to restrict a woman in realising their potential and contributing to the better functioning of our society in any way they may choose. The options and voices are theirs for the choosing, and whether they choose to pursue a profession, be a care giver, a politician or a businesswoman or almost anything else – we all benefit.
Accordingly, the GAWL urges our government and its agencies, the private sector and society as a whole to ensure that all laws, action and policies are reflective of securing the rights of women and girls. These must never, inadvertently or by design, promote discrimination and limitations on females. Domestic violence must be recognised as a scourge which affects women’s functioning at an optimum in the workplace and their ability to be primary caregivers as they are by tradition considered. Girls must not be stereotyped by the opportunities afforded to only follow certain jobs and professions. While this aspect is not as obvious in Guyana, it is still the reality in some industries and businesses where females in management appears not to be countenanced.
Women are important to Guyana being a productive nation. It is a fact that men cannot do it alone. It is a woman’s right to be the best that she can be in all spheres of life. Likewise, our girls must be encouraged to follow their dreams; be leaders and supporters. Adults must not limit their potential and make them victims of violence in the home so that their productivity is constrained.
No one must be left behind. Our women and girls are integral to our society. It is incumbent on all of us as Guyanese to eschew violence against women. Let us use the 16 days of activism to actively remind our males and each other that domestic violence is the business of us all and not a right. One positive act or word by any one of us can go a far way to ending it now!
Guyana Association of Women Lawyers