‘When a country is in the grip of a collective passion, it becomes unanimous…the partisan spirit makes people blind, makes them deaf to justice. It dims perception of goodness, merely enables it to mistake this or that means for an absolute good.
‘One must, therefore, endeavour strenuously to protect one’s inner faculty of judgment against the turmoil of personal hopes and fears.’
Once again, the pain of a murdered daughter has consumed us. How do we recover from this trauma?
The ongoing ‘trial’ of suspects by injudicious media releases leaves us feeling like puppets on a string. We accept ‘modern’ policing with a fancy command centre fed by less than half of the installed cameras!
We denounce all who would point out the flaws in our actions, even though we cannot define a crime scene beyond the relatives’ emotional state and the gawking media. Thankfully, we did not smear our latest ‘throw-away’ daughter, Andrea Bharrat.
Our whole charade of criminal justice is laid bare. How should we feel?
While feelings of payback may be momentarily satisfying, does it help us reduce gender-based violence? Does ‘protect and serve’, expressed in unexplained injuries, move us closer to a better society?
How much violence is acceptable? How does this approach rope in powerful men who evade accountability, being protected by the system that silences the victim?
Like the men who demand that the poor store clerk give up her ‘honey’ or die an undignified death by losing her job?
Missing women is a significant problem. The number of unrecovered missing persons has more than doubled in the last three years.
In July 2020, Grace Esther Roberts, 24 years old, of Diego Martin disappeared in similar conditions as Andrea Bharatt. We moved on. Not a media ripple beyond a day or two. She was just another ‘throw-away’ woman.
More than half of all disappearances in Trinidad are women. But this proportion increases to 78% in our most vulnerable group, the 15 to 19 age bracket.
These ‘throw-away’ women are uniquely vulnerable and easily erased from memory. They run away from physical and sexual abuse meted out in economically unstable households into the arms of sexual predators.
They are never perceived as ‘innocent’ by us. They can be ‘thrown- away’. Who cares?
The violence does not happen in a vacuum. Men learn their values and actions from growing up in a cultural context that devalues women.
Men seldom confront other men. Yet in cases attracting national attention, these men respond in anger and seek revenge mixed with a heavy dose of advice to women who are not ‘careful’.
These men set a low bar—I do not beat my wife—for being regarded as a good man. They deny that violence against women is a real issue without realising that this invisibility is a powerful feature of power and privilege.
We have to do better. We have to encourage our men to care for our children. This action would increase their capacity for empathy and make our homes more emotionally and physically safe places.
We have to believe, not belittle, our women and allow our communities to heal. We have to help our victims and deliver accountability.
We have to answer the questions: why are you doing this to me? Why me? What will make you stop doing this?
Until we all answer these questions, we will continue to spin top in mud while pretending to make progress.
Until we accept that gender-based violence happens at the intersection of how our society privileges some and debases others and makes us believe that some people are more worthy, we will not begin to uproot the problem.
Let’s do better.