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Noble: The ‘throw-away’ woman challenge—where our injustice, violence, and sexism intersect

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.’

Simone Weill 

Photo: Andrea Bharatt, 23, went missing on 29 January 2021. Her body was found in the Heights of Aripo on 4 February 2021.

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?

Photo: A controversial Dolce & Gabbana advertisement.

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. 

Photo: Grace Esther Roberts, 24 years old, went missing in July 2020.

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. 

Image: The cycle of violence.

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.

About Noble Philip

Noble Philip
Noble Philip, a retired business executive, is trying to interpret Jesus’ relationships with the poor and rich among us. A Seeker, not a Saint.

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10 comments

  1. The government should launch a “Taxis service initiative” and give women loans to buy cars to use as taxis. These taxis should be exclusively for women driven by women. We will solve several issues here giving women opportunity to earn an income by driving taxis owned and operated by women for women and women can travel and feel safe. Also the regular taxis drivers now will weed out the culprits among them because they are fully aware of the predators among their members and will not ferret them out of the service. however when they see competition that is challenging their livelihoods everyone seems to have a memory boost and become upstanding citizens and report these pedophiles. They can called them the Pink Taxis.These drivers must repay their loans it can be low interest and 10yr terms

    • Lasana Liburd

      This is an interesting idea. I like the out of the box thinking.

    • The flaw here is that law-abiding people don’t think like criminals because they are constrained by respect for life and limb.

      In T&T, to begin with, the effective law is whatever you can get away with. In other words, Lasana, they don’t think outside the box,, there is NO BOX.

      That means it won’t be long, Mr Chase, before these same female taxi-drivers that you recommend we put on the streets become targets.

      How? I dunno. Laws work for me. You’ll have to ask the would-be bandits that question.

      • Mr Best and Lasana we can’t throw up arms in the air and do nothing we as men have a responsibility to protect our women in our community. The time for blame is over we know what the problems are and it can be fixed immediately not another commission and study I think this idea the public can get on board with it . It is not another public give away because we have a “freebie cultural in T&T” It is a loan for women to buy cars (maybe 250) to stimulate the economy too) help women of low to middle income to ultimately benefit from this gruesome tragedy and turn this into a positive . P.S My wife said the same thing too that people will try to rob the taxi drivers too but alas we live in an IT age debit/credit card transactions only, cameras installed in these cars also with GPS tracking. Yes I know it comes with a cost too but this is why we let the government finance them at low interest and a 10yr loan period . People who miss 3 consecutive payments on their loans will be flag and vehicles repossess and given to other worthy candidate’s . This is not a time for inertia we owe it to these young women whose lives we snuff-out grotesquely.

  2. thehandbehindthecurtain

    Here is how we reactivate our capital punishment laws.
    #1 find out how many persons are on death row, , find out their names and their crimes and the status of their legal matters, a complete list.
    #2 use that info and make public demonstrations with prisoner x’s name, remind the public of his crime (the more gruesome his/her crime the better), make it clear he/she is the one we want to use to start hanging again in TT. Fill up the PM, AG and Prisons Commissioner email, call their offices with the same message.
    #3 write EU Ambassadors of the different EU nations emails filling up their inboxes calling for capital punishment in TT and for them to stay out of our local justice, have their phones ringing whole day with the same message, if they can talk so can we.
    #4 Our Gov should publicly contact the ambassadors of abolitionist countries who criticize and lobby us before every execution and offer them to take the condemned or else the verdict will have to be carried out, this will give them a chance to put their morals where their mouth is or in the case they should decline the offer to fill their nation with our killers it will expose them as hypocrites before the world. We need only 1 condition they can never return or else the verdict will be carried out, death means death and as long as they breathe that verdict is waiting in TT on them.
    Human rights Ngo’s can go to hell, all they care about is the human rights of killers who use ”human rights ngo’s” to hide behind when they are supposed to get their fair punishment. You never hear nothing from them to defend the innocent victims. You kill you get killed, this has been the law of civilized man for over 1000 years. That law served us well until we decided to listen to abolitionists around the year 2000. Our country lost many good citizens because we refused to kill criminals. There will be a blood price regardless but at least with executions it’s those who deserve it.
    I don’t like saying it but the Caribbean criminal needs force to learn respect for the rule of law, we even have a saying ingrained in the culture ”who don’t hear will feel”.

  3. thehandbehindthecurtain

    There is a show called bait car, where US police get a model vehicle that thieves are known to target and they outfit the vehicle with hidden cams, microphones, tracking devices and remote kill switches. Because of that show we have a unique insight into what these criminals are thinking because some of them literally say it in the videos. We need bait women, we need female police officers to be equipped with hidden recording devices to go into taxis with a SORT intervention team in trail, to see if any taxi driver will cross the line and if they do then come heavily armed SORT operatives that will deal with them accordingly, we should also use school girls in uniform for this, because some sickos prefer vulnerable underage girls.

  4. Again, where are your statistics to support your assertions?
    “Men seldom confront other men”
    You can’t just make stuff up.

    The question is, why are we not hearing of all the times men have gone out of their way to protect women? Those times men give them rides home safely? Or wait with them until they are picked up by a relative? Or come to their defense when they are in danger? How many women take public transportation every day and make it to their destination safely? The vast majority.
    Why aren’t these women speaking up in our defense?
    Women would have you believe that these occurrences are rare when in fact they are plentiful. In fact, they are the norm.

    • Please, Maxwell, does the news report that 6,000 planes landed safely at their destination today Do you hear on the radio that there were no road accidents today.

      It’s the aberrant that needs to be brought to our attention. If it ent bruck, they say, nobody needs to fix it.But you may have a point with the statistics. Some people may need the hard data of 539 in 2020 etc to be persuaded.

      Wanna bet Noble has all that at his fingertips? He just does not think we should need hard data to be able to perceive the problem, I think.

      Here’s hoping he feels the need to explain…

    • Noble Philip

      I am uncertain how to engage with this comment. If you are serious, there is an excellent study done by Rus Ervine Funk (2006) that supports these stats. There is another one by Hart Research Associates Inc (2007) which shows that men can have a positive impact once they get involved. I am happy that the men in your circle are supportive. You should listen to the women who use public transportation or maybe encourage more local research in this area of human behaviour.

      • And you both are clearly missing the point.
        In good vs evil the good guys may have 10000 successes, but all the bad guy needs is one or two or 539 in 2020 to make it seem like nothing is being done.
        You and your like make it seem as though women have been abandoned.
        Women know this is not true.