Nalita Gajadhar of the Bureau of Gender Affairs is unceasing in her battle against domestic violence on the woman –– and rightly so. But the bureau programme officer must not so weight the brutalities of women, that she appears to trivialize domestic violence on the man.
Mrs Gajadhar has opined that violence against women can be seen from the womb to the tomb, “essentially in cases of infanticide, prenatal sex selection in favour of male babies, genital mutilation, sexual harassment in school and the workplace, trafficking, forced prostitution, dowry-related violence and domestic violence”.
While Nalita’s imagery may be argued to be extreme in the context of Barbados –– after all, as far as we are aware, prenatal sex selection, dowry-related violence and genital mutilation are not practices here –– the issue in particular of marital (or conjugal) rape, which she has also raised, warrants our strictest attention.
And we concur that when the current domestic violence legislation is amended, the attention to marital or conjugal rape ought to be included –– uneqivocally and unambiguously. For either partner could be guilty of forcing the other to have sexual intercourse.
It is not unknown for women –– much like men –– to hold the view they have a right and special privilege to, and a lien on their partners’ bodies and their most private and sacrosanct parts.
In her case for women, Nalita offered the circumstance of a mother coming home from the hospital after giving birth and being forced to have sexual intercourse by her spouse. Clearly, this woman’s partner is insensitive, inconsiderate, ignorant, aliterate and idiotic. And it would not have been unusual or cruel punishment sentencing him to a course of study in physiology and humanity.
Truly, it is sad that as a society we have to be continually amending and toughening laws for an acceptable behaviour between spouses that could otherwise have come from the womb of common sense. And, there is no ability to legislate intelligence or mother wit!
However, to Mrs Gajadhar’s credit, no matter how grudgingly, she does acknowledge that there has been “significant under-reporting” of domestic violence against men. And we applaud the Bureau of Gender Affairs officer’s fresh stand that we must not see the domestic violence against woman and against man as a competition of which gender is abused more. Spousal bullying and battering on all fronts are primitive and evil.
We make no attempt to minimize the severity and brutality of violence against women by men –– provoked or not. Nor will we sidestep the issue of brutal, physical and psychological abuse perpetrated by wives and girlfriends against their men, and bringing it to the fore when the victims themselves are embarrassed to admit their dilemma.
For the greater part, the media, authorities and citizenry see and portray domestic violence as a crime against women carried out by men virtually exclusively. Consequently, the frenzy this nurtures, with its attendant public demonstration and pronouncements, paints a picture of support for women overwhelmingly terrorized by their wayward spouses.
This portrayal has not been unique to Barbados. It took national investigation to debunk the myth in the United States. There, 200 or more survey-based studies on domestic violence were done, which showed this type of abuse was just as likely to strike men as women. The mass of evidence indicated that half of all domestic violence cases involved an exchange of blows, and the remaining 50 per cent was evenly split between men and women who were brutalized by their partners.
We have no substantial data in Barbados on the comparative domestic brutality suffered by both man and woman. For sure, most of the information provided on domestic violence against men is anecdotal, and this must be of concern to those of us who seek the building of wholesome and responsible family units –– and even more so of an interest to the Bureau of Gender Affairs.
Maybe, the appropriate attention to domestic violence against males is lacking largely because of a scarcity of funds, and because consideration for our women is greater due to fact they are so much more biologically vulnerable.
Notwithstanding, battered men do not help their cause, consumed by a fear of being deemed weak or unmanly for crying out. Machismo in this context would be no more than an old wives’ tale.