Letter of the Day | Public education campaign needed to fight domestic violence
The Editor, Sir
As the number of women being killed in domestic disputes continues to rise, the society is entering 'panic mode'. Some persons are calling for legislation with harsh provisions for punishment. Others are demanding that the police should somehow find a way to prevent these homicides arising from domestic dispute.
There is now an air of arrogance emanating from the attacking male, whose motto is, "if me can't have you, nobody else nah get u".
Our men need to understand that there is no basis in our legal system, nor in our culture, for compulsory union between man and woman.
There are societies in which the right to terminate a man-woman relationship is so restricted that it can been seen as not allowed. This is not the case in our society, and so, even where the parties are married, they can separate temporary on their own initiative or by a court order, such as a protection order, under the Domestic Violence Act. They can be permanently separate by either party obtaining a Decree Absolute in the divorce court. We must accept the reality that it is all but impossible for the police to prevent acts of domestic violence.
Attorneys, too, at times experience instances where they are retained to take action against an abusive spouse, only to be told a couple days later that everything is alright and that the parties are back together again.
Close family members and relatives are in most instances aware that there is ongoing spousal abuse, but they fail to intervene or to encourage the victim to seek assistance. It is only after there is a tragic event that they come forward and confess that they were aware of ongoing abuse.
The best approach that the Government can take to tackle spousal abuse is not necessarily more laws and more drastic punishment. A man who is prepared to kill his spouse and then commit suicide is not deterred by any level of punishment prescribed by law. Such a person has already committed to taking his own life or is prepared to die in prison.
RESOLVING THEIR DIFFERENCES
It is submitted that the best approach is a well-structured, well-developed and well-organised public education programme professionally carried out and aimed at persuading men and women to respect each other's rights and desist from resolving their differences through violent means.
Special emphasis should be placed on educating our men to respect women and to accept that women have a right to leave the relationship they are in. Similarly, our women should be taught to accept that men have a right to get out of a relationship whenever they want to.
This has to be a long-term effort, as it is not likely that changes will come overnight. In the meantime, let us all appeal to persons in relationships to accept that all relationships will come to an end one day, if it is even by death. Let us appeal to our citizens to accept and acknowledge that everyone has a right to get out of a relationship. The churches and educational institutions should take the lead in educating our young men on the importance of respecting women and on their duty to protect, instead of abusing, women.
Finally, all persons in abusive relationships have a duty to seek help before it is too late.
Linton P. Gordon