There is no denying that Barbadian women have done well and continue to contribute to the well-being and development of this country –– as much as or on par with many a commendable and worthy man. Last weekend’s celebration of International Women’s Day would have manifested this.
Over the years, we have successfully driven away from Barbados all forms of discrimination against women in our various professions, trades, politics, religions, and social life for the greater part. And we qualify the last category because of the ongoing controversy over the treatment of and resolve in the taxing matter of domestic violence.
To be truthful, there is less lack of enforcement of measures against violence on women, certainly little worry about an inadequacy of response from the legal system, and there is pledged stepped up awareness and mediation training of criminal investigative and justice personnel to mitigate what has been described as a culture of impunity among perpetrators.
Really, these days, there is too much of a rallying cry from among women especially and men of conscience against domestic violence –– any violence, for that matter –– for such a commission to go unnoticed any longer and be left undealt with. The challenge actually is: how will we effectively be rid of this most grave transgression.
The persistence in stereotyping men as individuals who believe they have a right to own a woman and to dictate her every choice and move, opposition to which the spouse pursues at her own peril, needs to be debunked. It is an archetype as offensive as that of all women seeking to exploit every asset of a man and dispensing with him when he is of no more monetary value to them.
This is not to suggest that you will find no one –– man or woman –– to fit the above bills, but that this cannot be simplistically at the core of the problem of the sexes.
In a way, women’s activist Nalita Gajadhar’s outburst and walkout Friday night at a public forum on domestic violence at the Whitepark Road Wesleyan Holiness Church demonstrated the bugaboo that haunts this contrived contest between the sexes. Clearly, Ms Gajadhar has a bias towards women’s welfare and articulates this cause, but is loath to hear Ralph Boyce’s whom she obviously perceives as having a preference towards the well-being of men.
How much more intellectually unreasonable can one be?
And what offends Ms Gajadhar, a programme officer of the Bureau of Gender Affairs, by the way? That Mr Boyce proffered that some men have resorted to violence on feeling mistreated by their spouses after “investing”
–– and we take that to mean financially –– in their relationships.
In her rant, Ms Gajadhar observed that there were women who too invested (a term she yet scoffed at) in relationships that went bad, but did not resort to violence. Where is the evidence that not a single woman so affected turned to abuse? In the files of the Bureau of Gender Affairs? Ms Gajadhar is too intelligent a woman to be pursuing this line of protest.
As we have said before, we abhor domestic violence –– by man or woman. But we are not so naive as to think that it is not sometimes an outcome of discovered exploitation or provocation, as it is a result at other times of the irrational loss of control, prejudice, or ignorance.
Mr Boyce of the Men’s Educational Support Association may be too blunt for the likes of Ms Gajadhar, but his are matters that have to be raised and resolved in a civilized manner. Our women of note have come too far now to retrogress into a gender war of sorts that does neither sex any good.
Confrontational as they, sadly, continue to be, there is yet much to benefit from the organizations representing the two genders. And the raw threat to their co-existence and harmony keeps coming to the fore for our attention, acknowledgment and resolve: the lack of mutual effort that can only stand on the base of compromise.
Psychotherapist with the Business and Professional Women’s Club, Patrice Daniel, avers that we must stop blaming the victims (in her view mostly women); that it doesn’t matter the provocation; the perpetrator should exercise conscious adult intellect. We agree in principle. But we fear Ms Daniel’s implied imagery of a brute force being of a man, for the fun of it, pummelling a helpless woman at will is a stereotype we could well do without.
Her advice is equally relevant to those women who subtly goad their men, bully and beat them up, knowing these pretentious souls would rather suffer than let the world know of their dilemma.
The truth is woman has the answer to our gender problems, motherly as she can be, brilliant as she is, honest as she would be. There is really no justifiable reason why our men and women cannot come to live in harmony –– men’s egos notwithstanding.