Another look at violence in our society

By Hydar Ally
Guyana Chronicle
April 27, 2000

AN ARTICLE in the Stabroek News of Tuesday April 18, 2000 headlined "Five chopped in row over duck" caught my attention. According to the article, a duck was at the centre of a brawl in which five persons from neighbouring homes at Patentia, West Bank Demerara were severely chopped. The Police were called to investigate the matter.

Were it not for the severity of the matter and the serious wounds inflicted on the parties to the dispute, the entire episode would have been considered one big comedy, moreso, since the parties involved in the dispute were related to each other by marriage or by blood.

The issue brings to the surface some sociological problems which need to be addressed in our society. Many of these border on domestic violence perpetrated on family members. There are cases of husbands beating wives, parents abusing children, sometimes sexually. Invariably, these stared out as a simple domestic quarrel but became increasingly violent as the parties failed to reconcile their differences and brute force and ignorance replaced verbal arguments and counter-arguments.

A significant number of these domestic abuses remain within the confines of the home due to cultural reasons. Women in particular are hesitant to report cases of abuse inflicted on them and their children by their husbands out of fear of separation and further abuse.

Violence, whether in the home or outside the home, is unacceptable and an indictable offence punishable by law. This includes violence inflicted on children by parents, many of whom tend to believe that it is allright for them to beat not realising the tremendous damage inflicted on these hapless individuals.

The damage inflicted is not only physical. Even more damaging are the emotional and psychological scars that remain long after the physical wounds would have been healed. Such emotional scars often have a lasting effect on the afflicted individual, lowering self-esteem and one's sense of worth and dignity.

The solution to the problem of violence in the home has to be addressed, in my view, at two levels - through education and through the selective use of punitive measures at the judicial level.

There is need for example, for suitable parenting skills, which can be done with the help of mass media, in particular, the electronic media. The approach should include one in which everyone, in particular, women and children are made aware of their rights and the protection available to them by the Constitution. This `rights approach' should be suitably reinforced by community meetings and seminars by social organisations such as the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association, Help and Shelter, religious organisations, and of course, women's organisations, since women are often at the receiving end when violence erupts in the home.

I am aware of several initiatives of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security to address the problem of domestic violence. I am aware also of the introduction by the Ministry of Education of the Health and Family Life Education in the schools, the intention being to promote family values such as tolerance, respect for pluralism and diversity of opinions.

I would like to take the opportunity of this viewpoint to appeal to all parents and guardians to make a special effort to refrain form inflicting violence on other family members. This includes women as well. Remember, the use of physical force is not an indication of superiority or strength; on the contrary, it is sign of weakness and cowardice. Let us all be constantly reminded of the old adage "Words are wind, but blows are unkind".