At 19 years old, Amera Mohammed is pursuing a degree at the University of the West Indies; setting the foundation for a better life through education. While her youthful years should be happy, this teenager lives with a constant fearof being kidnapped, raped or murdered like several others around her age.
It was the sad tale she shared with San Fernando residents who gathered for a candlelight vigil in Gulf View in honour of Arima law clerk Andrea Bharatt who was savagely murdered and dumped along the Heights of Aripo.
She said that while men often tell women how to protect themselves against gender-based violence, the sad truth was that they have no choice but to heed the guidance. It was because the authorities women depend on for protection, often fails.
“We live in a sad reality where we get up every morning and live in this constant state of fear and paranoia. What if I am going to be next? What if that was me? What if it was mom, my grandmother, my sister. It is really unfair, and I think I can speak for each and every one of us here tonight that we are honestly tired. We are fed-up, and this is not normal. It is not how we should be living. We should not be living in the constant fear while our abusers, kidnappers and rapists roam freely,” Mohammed said.
President of Soroptomist International-Anaparima Candace Maharaj said her organisation stands against domestic violence, intimate partner violence and degrading and gaslighting women.
She said that as people call for change, it must begin with each individual, including the men who also recognise that they are part of the problem. She called on them to do introspection and see whether they contribute to the ill-treatment of women.
“The men who may not be the direct ones; you may say I do not abuse women, I do not put down women. But think about it, what kind of jokes are we laughing at? What kind of culture are we encouraging in our community? The suiting, the catcalling, this rape culture that permeates our community is something that we must and will stand against,” Maharaj said.
She called on parents to raise their sons to respect women and teach their daughters to demand respect.
She said community groups must now lobby their members of Parliament and write letters to the editor for the government to notice their demands to rewrite outdated laws and focus on woman and communities.
Dr Saied Rahaman from the La Romaine ASJA Masjid prayed for people to turn their hearts to what is right. As the country mourns, Rahaman asked Allah to help those in authority understand the nation’s needs and correct the wrong. He asked for guidance for the leaders to stop fighting each other and understand that political fighting was not what the country needs.
He prayed that police officers and members of the legal system do what was right and not succumb to corruption.