A group of participants during Sunday’s candlelight vigil and march in memory of kidnapped and kidnapped victim Andrea Bharatt and to stop violence against women at Palmiste Park, San Fernando.

The Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad and Tobago (ESCTT) is calling on policy makers to address the issues of crime, social justice and femicide in this country, in light of the upsurge in advocacy and demonstrations across the nation, following the deaths of Andrea Bharatt and Ashanti Riley.

According to a statement released today by the ESCTT Executive Chair, Zakiya Uzoma-Wadada, policy makers must find effective ways to address the deep social problems affecting the country, which lie at the heart of the increase in gender-based violence and femicide.

The full text of the statement, follows…

Brutal murders sound an alarm, time to address deep problems

In the wake of the heinous murder of Andrea Bharatt, the Emancipation Support Committee of Trinidad and Tobago (ESCTT), expresses its condolences to her father, the family and extended family of this young woman. It is painful to have to extend such condolences so soon after the society experienced trauma over the murder of young Ashanti Riley.

The recent spate of murders has made it quite clear that the society is reeling from the effects of compounded shocks to its social core. The deaths of the young women expose a deepening disregard for human life, a pervasive culture of violence and entrenched notions held about the place of women and men which are manifested in disrespect for women, children and the elderly by some members of the society and institutions within the society.

The ESCTT supports the calls for registries of PH drivers and taxi drivers made by women’s NGOs and members of the aggrieved public. Likewise calls made for registries for sex offenders, but only when they are convicted of a crime, not simply charged. These measures are good but not sufficient.

We have looked at the experience in India where, in attempts to decrease the murder, rapes and assaults of young female students and women, the public transport system was mandated to have women-only cabins on the train, so that women could travel unmolested. We take note that, it is recognised in India that although this was a welcomed relief, more has to be done to change the culture of violence in the society and against women in particular.

We also have noted that as a society becomes more violent, femicide and gender-based violence increase and become even more brutal. The cases of Guatemala and Honduras are good examples, where despite very draconian legislation and brutal policing measures, the gender-based violence continues unabated.

We note that calls for legislation that will allow persons to be placed behind bars, once charged, may be an appeasement to the anger and pain which persons feel now, but it is neither just, humane nor logical. It is important for the society to hold on to the principle in law that a person is innocent until proven guilty. And no, the call for hangings is not the answer. Hanging has not been proven to be a deterrent to crime, it is purely a form of state sanctioned revenge.

The ESCTT calls on the society to work together to ensure that the deaths of these two young women, and the others who have perished, all full of life’s potentials, can lead us to explore alternative solutions to social injustices that are not only police driven, though the police have an important part to play, not quick fixes, but solutions designed to address deep social problems.

Lastly, the ESCTT calls on policy makers to use this opportunity to address the issues of crime and social injustice underpinned by inherited structural inequalities that impact the lives and deaths of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.

Zakiya Uzoma-Wadada
Executive Chair