Police can always do more

I am always astounded that when a woman is killed in this country. Many find it possible to call on or more directly blame women’s organisations for their laxity. This newest atrocity has been no different, although now the police too comes in for their share of blame.

Your letter writer Ingrid Beckles wonders where such organisations are for women victims after our paper trailing and discussions here and there, and then she turns on the police as many letter writers are doing.

Just to encourage her, she probably is emboldened to write because women in women’s organisations have kept the issue in the forefront of consciousness in the Barbados and the region for several decades now. As a consequence of women’s actions laws have been instituted where none existed, to designate domestic violence as a crime.

Women’s organisations in Barbados and the Caribbean have badgered the police to collect data on such crimes and by and large they have responded, although we want to see more disaggregation of data to show crimes by sex to make it more clear what is happening in our countries. We have even attempted to get a legal recognition that rape occurs in marriage. However, society (not the women being raped in marriage I am sure) will not hear us on this.

As for the police, they can always do more, and the latest atrocity is a case in point. However, the police forces in Barbados and the region have cooperated at all official levels with women’s organisations to try to stem this epidemic of harm to women. Police commissioners at one of their regional summit meetings a few years back gave audience to women’s organisations belonging to the network, CAFRA (Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action), and agreed to the training of several thousand police officers and other front-line officers in managing domestic violence reports to try to stop them leading to deaths of women.

Police departments accepted the manuals we created to extend that training when we were not around to do it directly. Police forces even agreed to include training modules in the regular training of police officers at their training school. Women’s organisations have trained judges and magistrates to deal with issues of domestic violence.

All of the above of course needs to continue. And I do not aim here to be defensive, but to give information, since Beckles and many seem not to be aware. Much of this women’s work is now continued by the Bureaux of Women’s Affairs that were created at the urging of women’s organisations to treat the systematic ills women as a group in most societies endure. But I want to ask this: Why should the police have to protect our lives from men who say they love us?

The blame of women’s organisations for the little they are doing (while men’s organisations escape responsibility for addressing harm to women as though this has nothing to do with them) means nothing. The blame of the police at this time of our history for failure to protect women means little. I am sorry. What I don’t understand is the hatred of women that is abounding everywhere, from which we cannot be protected ever.

More women will be killed. More women will be beaten, raped and abducted. Their clothes will not matter, for their age does not matter. Whether they are on the streets or in the sanctity of their homes will not matter. They will not be safe in classrooms from some predatory male teachers, nor on minibuses or ZRs, for it is not only in India or Brazil where assaults are happening. Barbadian and Caribbean women in women’s organisations know the stories because we hear them, suffer them, and have to deal with the fall-out.

Let Ralph Boyce and MESA and all the men start to act and speak for women now, because to be honest, I’m tired like many of my sisters who are out there pressing the struggle. We’re tired of one more woman hurt. We’re just tired. And I weep as I write this. But wha.

— Margaret D. Gill

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