Pauline Clarke was going about her regular business, leaving the gym with her 17-year-old daughter, when she was gunned down by an unknown assailant who is still at large.
The mournful groan of her grieving mother, Hazel Clarke, hit home hard.
“They took my child away from me . . . . The person that did this must pay the penalty for it. They need to be punished.”
We couldn’t agree more. Such brutal violence is unacceptable in our country, and we are anxious for the aggressor to face the full brunt of the law.
At this stage, we steer clear of speculating on the circumstances that led to the act, but it’s difficult to ignore that it was another act of violence against a woman.
Let us be clear: crimes against all members of society, regardless of gender, ought to be abhorred and punished.
Still, Pauline’s tragic demise easily reminds us of a strong caution from former United States President Barack Obama, that “you can judge a nation and how successful it will be, based on how it treats its women and girls.”
Even in our society where our women have made tremendous strides, breaking the glass ceiling especially in the last seven months when we welcomed the appointment of our second female Governor General, Dame Sandra Mason, and the resounding election victory of our first female Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, Barbados still has a long way to go to treat all its women with respect and equality.
Some would argue that our Constitution does a pretty good job of upholding women’s rights; that our laws protect our women more so than our men. But, unfortunately, the wheels of justice turn slowly, sometimes even haltingly, for women.
A case in point: this week, reports surfaced that two police officers allegedly harassed three women at the Soca Legends event at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre last Saturday night.
According to reports, one of the lawmen asked one of the ladies to dance but she turned him down. The officers, who were reportedly intoxicated, responded in an aggressive manner towards the women. Police were summoned and the two officers were taken to the District ‘A’ Police Station for questioning. They have since been released without charge.
Police Public Relations Officer Acting Inspector Rodney Inniss has only told this media house that the matter remains under active investigation.
Like the Public Relations Officer of the National Organization for Women, Marsha Hinds, we urge the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) to conduct fair and transparent investigations and give a full account of their findings to the public.
Police are sworn to protect and serve citizens and anything less than a thorough probe would only serve to undermine the RBPF’s image.
No one is above the law and therefore we expect our lawmen to treat to the matter seriously, if only to send a strong message that our women are valuable and ought to be respected and protected.
We simply cannot allow Barbados to be a society where, as Member of Parliament for St Philip North Dr Sonia Browne pointed out this week, women are often forced to resort to unsavoury practices to get the necessities, such as homes.
In her contribution to debate on the Integrity in Public Life Bill, she warned that needy women were often exploited by public officials.
“This is the vulnerable group; there is nothing worse than taking the advantage of a female who has children and no other support, who needs a home and is suffering in somebody else’s little room in the back, paying $700 a month when something could be done about it.
“No woman should have to get to her knees . . . to get a home, or anything else for that matter.”
Clearly, in a modern Barbados under the leadership of a woman, such practices are unacceptable.
Our women matter and there must be a clear demonstration, not only from our high offices but from our police, our workplaces, our churches, our communities and our families, that they deserve respect, support and equal rights in all spheres of life.