September 10, 2013

What can we do?

Tue Sep 10, 2013

Whenever there are gruesome murders in our society, especially of women, our collective outrage comes to the fore, with calls from various quarters for “something” to be done. But what exactly is this “something” and who is responsible for doing it?{{more}}

One of the more common reactions is for civil society groups to host marches and candlelight vigils to draw awareness to what is going on. But after the placards have been tossed into the garbage and the candles have been blown out, what has the march accomplished? Has anything changed? Unless these marches are very pointed in their calls, and demand very specific actions on the part of the authorities, they accomplish little, except, perhaps to provide an outlet for a people who feel frustrated, helpless and voiceless.

There is, however, no short-term, quick fix solution to the violence we have been observing in recent years. Police statistics indicate that violent crime has not been increasing, but has remained at a fairly even level for the last five years or so. The statistics should be no source of comfort, for all they indicate is that we have been experiencing far too many incidents of violence, especially of men attacking, and often killing, the mothers of their children, for far too long.

To deal with this problem in any kind of meaningful manner, requires sustained action, both preventive and punitive, on several fronts.

On the preventive side, we need to take another look at the cultural environment in which we live, and in which we are raising our children. Chief among the things we need to reconsider are the music we allow our children to listen to, and our practice of administering corporal punishment to our children. Some of the songs particularly favoured by our young people advocate violence in subtle and explicit ways, and the dehumanizing of women, making them nothing but mere sexual commodities. When we teach our children from early that the way to deal with conflict is to hit the other person, what do we expect when they grow up?

Victims of violence also need to take every act of violence against them seriously and report perpetrators to the police, and when these matters are reported, they should have the support and courage to see the cases through to the end. The police too need to step up their game in terms of their response to complaints, effectiveness of investigations and protection of the complainants. Our judges and magistrates too should ensure that whenever violence is used in the perpetration of a crime, very stiff penalties are imposed. And of course, the death penalty. While some experts claim that studies show that it not a deterrent to crime, one wonders if those studies were done in the Caribbean. Something must be done to curb this problem; we are not sure what. What we do know is that our tiny society is crying out for help and for the violence to stop.