Since I am penning my 50th blog post I was compelled to write a blog in the interest of women in my country though many of the issues I touch on are applicable to women everywhere. I now address my sisters no matter where you are, but especially the women I live among.
At this time in the history of our country, we are all looking forward to a new Guyana. We are hopeful for a new political culture and political system that must evolve into a cooperative, integrated one. We hear, discuss (if at all) and read about the each of the parties’ vision for the country including economic and social development. But what about women’s development, what about their vision for us?
The 2012 budget debates offer a unique opportunity to scrutinize their respective agendas and disappointingly, we have hardly featured. What is interesting is that the parliament of itself is not an extract portrait, in miniature of our society at large, because we are underrepresented. The fact that we are represented, to an extent, also does not automatically translate into the issues which affect us appearing on the legislative agenda, which leads me to an important question. How then can they think, reason, feel and act in our interest?
I identify as a feminist not because I believe in crusading against men, but because I was born into a patriarchal society. This acknowledgment affects my psyche so seriously that I am unable to absorb what is happening around me without accepting that male domination is aggressively pronounced at all levels of our society (everywhere).That said I am concerned about the political leadership in our country and their treatment of women.
We need to know their positions on specific issues which are of interest to us. We need to know their positions on issues such as rape, domestic violence, child abuse, teenage pregnancy, abortion, sexual harassment, women’s rights, gay rights, child care, domestic work and HIV/AIDS. We also need to know what programmes they have designed to help grassroots/working class women who struggle with decisions such as whether to send their children to school or put food on the table. We need to know whether they have reviewed the Women of Worth (WOW) programme to determine if it has offered women across our country any real benefits.
More directly, we need to know their positions on domestic violence and when they will accept that calling on women to empower themselves is only part of the solution. But that the greater issue is in recognizing gender and power is central to the problem, as is a growing culture which seems to condone it. By normalizing the problem as a “man and woman” issue and or “a private issue” we have reached a troubling point where wife beating, women hitting and sexual assault is widespread in our society.
For some time now, I have recognized that women in our country are in trouble simply by taking note of the women who have been murdered at the hands of their partners. Also by the minimal number of women who courageously appear in court to publicly state how they were beaten, choked, burnt and slapped in the face with irons etc. I have heard the voices of those who say women enjoy playing the victim card and that women like me, feminists, fail to realize that men are also abused at the hands of female partners. I say to them that domestic violence is situated within a patriarchal explanation, a product of patriarchal traditions of men’s right to control “their” women.
The statistics confirm how many of us are murdered, wounded, stalked and are living in fear and therefore, we do not need to play victims; we are. There are men among us who systematically control women not only through violence, but threats, subordination and other control tactics. It is what some researchers have defined as “patriarchal terrorism”. What I have found troubling is that the state and by extension our leaders, appears to be a sponsor of this terrorism.
Is domestic violence acceptable to some, even legitimate? Should domestic work be valued? Will the participation of women in Parliament increase? These are critical questions which our leaders need to be addressing. By failing to outline any sensible plans addressing the issues which are important to us, they have failed us, which is why I have said earlier that we need to know. It is in our interest to know their positions, but importantly where do we fit in their vision of a new Guyana?
Finally, we need to know our government’s position on the Commissioner of Police abuse of his office. Whether the victim in the case lied about being rape is not the issue, we need to know whether it is safe for us women to approach this office in the future. In failing to say what their position is the President and his Cabinet- aside from Minister Priya Manickchand- stand indicted for sponsoring the patriarchal terrorism we are fighting to be free of.