A bad dream

Stabroek News
August 11, 2000

"Would someone please tell me that I'm having a bad dream," wrote Ms Ameena Gafoor in a letter to this newspaper published on August 9. She was referring to the horrendous chopping incidents involving two women from Mocha Arcadia, one of whom has lost an eye and both her arms at the elbow, and the other of whom sustained severe wounds to the hand and neck. The alleged perpetrators were men, who either were in, or had had a relationship with their victims.

As if this news were not distressing enough, we have to read in Wednesday's edition of this newspaper that the Intensive Care Unit where both the injured are receiving treatment, "is now a hive of activity as the curious swarm the ward just to glimpse the two ... women." The report goes on to say that, "they have to bear the constant scrutiny of members of the public who would exclaim and make comments about their plight."

If the curious stood outside the ward where one of the alleged perpetrators is handcuffed to a bed and condemned him loudly, one would at least understand it even if one could not condone it, but to subject the victims to mental torture is unthinkable. Is it true that we have become so flint-hearted that prurience is now an acceptable substitute for humanity? Where is our sense of outrage at so horrific a crime as mutilation, particularly in a domestic environment? Where is our sympathy for the victims and our chastisement of the aggressors? How come we seem to have turned morality on its head?

Underneath it all one is left with the feeling that this society does not acknowledge that the intrinsic humanity of a woman in a domestic setting is equal to that of a man. We apparently have not come to terms with the fact that domestic violence perpetrated by spouses - official or reputed, current or ex - can simply find no justification on ethical or legal grounds. Instead we insist on clinging to ante-diluvian not to mention immoral assumptions about the 'rights' of men over women, including the 'right' of 'punishment', despite the fact that the real world overtook those assumptions long ago.

Leaving aside the question of the need for some mechanism to provide counselling for partners involved in stressful relationships, we also require a revolution in social attitudes. We need to hammer home the message at every available opportunity that brutality in the home is beyond the pale; that those who commit such crimes can find no harbour in the community at large; that a society which regards such a perversion as nothing more than a curiosity, is not a true society at all.

Normally, it is the heads of the various social and religious sectors who should take the lead in issuing condemnations, and we wait to hear their voices now. Changing attitudes begins at the top.

In the meantime, we trust that the hospital authorities have put security arrangements in place to protect Ms Hinds and Ms Murray from the cruel importunities of the prurient, and that they will find some means for them at an appropriate point to receive trauma counselling. As for the Government, we hope that the Ministry of Health is already exploring avenues by which Ms Hinds could be sent abroad in due course for the fitting of sophisticated prosthetic devices.

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