Who weeps for Sonia Hinds?

Stabroek News
September 13, 2000

Sonia Hinds lost both of her hands as well as suffered a severe head wound in a recent brutal episode of domestic violence, allegedly the result of a quarrel over a pair of shoes.

Sonia Hinds was a security guard, but she supplemented her income as a seamstress and hairdresser part time. Even with prostheses, she can no longer function effectively at any of these jobs. She is now a welfare case. But the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security admitted recently that its list of applicants for social security was stretching its finances to the limit. Who will provide for Sonia Hinds?

Sonia Hinds is a mother of three children whose faces her fingers will never again caress, whose hair she will never again comb. Whether she likes it or not, she will become a subject of pity-perhaps even ridicule. Who will help her to cope?

The Domestic Violence Act, while well-intentioned, does not protect women like Sonia Hinds, who are not aware that a Protection Order may be sought if they have been subjected to "harassment or psychological abuse". Under the act, harassment includes: "the intimidation of a person by: persistent verbal abuse; threats of physical violence; malicious damage to the property of a person; inducing fear of physical or psychological violence...."

Psychological abuse includes: "a repeated or habitual pattern of conduct which is performed to the dishonour, discredit or scorn of the personal worth of a person..."

The act has so far not prevented women from being maimed, battered and broken. And as long as it remains a document for reference after the fact, it is not likely to reduce the incidence of women dying from acts of violence in the home. A single, one-time act of physical abuse, whether premeditated or not, can kill, and the limited use of the Domestic Violence Act so far has been reactive.

The Domestic Violence Act was assented to by the late president Dr Cheddi Jagan on December 31, 1996. Today, nearly four years on, too few of the people it was legislated to protect know enough about it. Sonia Hinds, her relatives and neighbours are among them.

Who weeps for Sonia Hinds? No doubt Sonia Hinds does, along with her children and relatives. But we should all weep. And our tears should go on until the government through the Human Services Ministry begins a massive education and awareness campaign aimed at the reduction and prevention of domestic violence.

The Domestic Violence Act provides for a Director of Human Services who will be responsible for developing and promoting education and awareness programmes among other things. Such a person has not been identified, but this does not prevent the Human Services Ministry from implementing education programmes in the interim. A perfect forum would be the Women's Leadership Institute. The Women's Affairs Bureau and similar agencies can also hold workshops to impart such knowledge.

Organisations such as Help and Shelter and the Genesis Home are doing their part in dealing with the victims of domestic violence. The government needs to do its part to help reduce their clientele.

Unless women are educated as to what constitutes abuse, they will continue to accept it as a fact of life.

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