RADHICA DE SILVA
Faced with continued attacks against women, the moderator of the Presbyterian Church, Reverend Joy Abdul-Mohan, is calling for an end to marital rape, which she says is responsible for unwanted pregnancies.
Delivering her message in commemoration of International Women’s Day, Rev Abdul-Mohan said even though legislative changes have been made, marital rape still occurs.
“In the last two decades, regions in the Caribbean have witnessed new levels of violence, which have heightened the vulnerability of women. It is the cause of terrible suffering in the home and society. Women are abused physically, sexually, and mentally. They are disenfranchised and marginalized. Battered and abused women are isolated from nurturing, supportive communities to exercise greater control over them,” Rev Abdul-Mohan said.
“Caribbean men traditionally have poor social skills,” she contends. “Consequently, most men generally do not handle rejection very well and often resort to violence when women take issue.”
She said many rape victims in the Caribbean know the identities of their attackers.
“The failure to criminalize marital rape has been a major issue facing women. Victims of sexual violence can expect years of traumatic court appearances and delays with no guarantee of justice prevailing,” she points out.
“The attention given to the treatment of sexual offenders, whilst a valid human rights concern, speaks to the male bias in the legal system and in the cultural norms which underpin that bias. Even as some females take steps towards liberation, the men in their lives are not always supportive,” she said.
Rev Abdul-Mohan called for reform of gender-biased norms.
“Over the years, the home and society seem to be growing accustomed to despicable acts of heinous and murderous violence against women,” she noted.
She called on citizens to challenge stereotypes, fight bias and broaden their perceptions to include gender equality.
“We must create or change legislation to protect women and make interventions to improve relationships. The violence meted out against women in our country has underscored the character of brutality that has evolved into our society. The callous and carefree tone of abuse has branded us a nation of sycophants. Violence and crime of all forms seem to be overwhelming our country,” she added.
The Presbyterian Church Moderator called for an assessment to be done on the root causes of violence, noting that even with legislative change, brutal attacks against women continue.
“Legal reforms are limited by cultural norms and social attitudes, which themselves support gender biases,” she observed.
“These biases find expression in inefficient investigation practices on the part of the police and insensitive treatment of the victim in the courtroom. It may be human nature to assimilate violence and move on, but the home or society should never allow itself to reach to a point where it has been desensitized or made immune to the shock of the grievous assaults against women,” she stated.
Rev Abdul-Mohan also lamented that some “ballads/songs and calypsos are politically incorrect and down-right criminal”. These, she added, should be named and shamed.