R. Rose
September 29, 2017

Stop the killings! End domestic violence! But how?

‘Yo hear dey had another killing last night?’ ‘Boy, yo late, is two more dead.’

How many times have conversations like this been heard over the past few weeks, few years? How many times have we heard the wailing, witnessed the agony of mourning mothers, children, sisters and brothers, families, entire communities, as yet another murder is added to the dreaded count?

In response, we have done all kinds of things – prayed alone or en masse, appealed to good sense and human nature, marched and rallied, launched the laudable ‘Pan against crime’ initiative, proclaimed a gun amnesty, rallied in favour of a reintroduction of hanging, cursed the Government, even predicted the end of the world – but where have these gotten us? What success do we have to show?

This week began with the famous ‘Orange Day’, with the focus on ending domestic violence and violence against women. By the end of the week, our murder count had again risen, to an alarming 31(and counting), with females among the most recent victims. There is hardly anyone, save perhaps the perpetrators, who does not view the situation with dread and horror.

Indeed horror, and with it a sense of collective paralysis, almost hopelessness, is how best one can characterize the mood. Desperation can seep in easily in such a context, as nothing we try seems to be paying dividends to arrest the deadly trend.

Yet it is vital that we do not panic, do not lose hope, nor sink into despair, for such reactions open the door to anarchy. An objective assessment of our situation is necessary, but not so easy to make, in an emotionally charged atmosphere. We need to examine the wider context. Is SVG the only country, at least in our region, so plagued by these deadly incidents?

It will be small comfort to find out that to a greater or lesser degree, many of our neighbours are faced with similar deteriorating social situations. Inevitably, connections between such social decay and the economics – the poverty, high unemployment, and mounting debts – are going to be made. And, those of us trapped in our narrow party politics will point fingers at governments, the responsibility for safety and security is in their hands.

Sadly our women, most of them young, are among the victims, side by side with too many young men of today. There is no easy solution, but while we pray, and march, and protest, should we not also consider our collective responsibility? How do we expect an end to, or at least a drastic reduction in, violence against women, when the very unequal nature of power relations is at the heart of our economic and social situations? As long as we accept and promote attitudes which treat women, not as equals, but as possessions and sexual objects, we sow the seeds for primitive responses when that ‘possessory title’ is challenged.

There are many other social factors. Take the music so popular among our young people. Much of the lyrics is not uplifting, but rather helps to reinforce the atmosphere which breeds violence against women. Take the Vincy Mas, of which we are so proud, and check out the trend. Do you see anything there that is uplifting, geared to promote respect for our women, save the laudable lyrics of our female calypsonians?

In the entire society, there is a breakdown in discipline, at all levels, the personal leading to the collective. We cannot even discuss issues ‘on air’ or in the social media without becoming grossly disrespectful. Violent reactions are but a short shrift away. What of the movies we watch, the daily bombardment of news which leads one, subtly, to accept that violence is the solution to every problem. Sadly, we also have world leaders of the ilk of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un in North Korea, hardly inspirational that this can be.

These are not excuses, but a reminder of the complexity of the situation. We are in terrible mire, but there is no ready-made, instant solution. The aim is to end these killings and violence; but as yet, none of us seems to have the solution. The ‘How?’ is what we need to collectively and patiently pursue.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.