Why does society trivialize the lives of women killed by male relatives?
Stabroek News
May 21, 2002

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Dear Editor,

Why is it the murders of women by their husbands, boyfriends and other male relatives rarely make the front page while the murders of businessmen and women are front-page news and these stories are followed up daily until (and sometimes after) their funerals?

According to the Guyana Chronicle of Thursday, May 16, 2002, page 2, Mrs Dorita Walcott was reportedly brutally murdered by a relative at Armadale, West Coast Berbice on Wednesday, May 15. This murder was linked to banditry according to the Chronicle report which noted the statement of the daughter of the deceased that the believed assailant demanded that she collect her mother’s jewels and run away with him. Why then did this murder by a killer/bandit only merit small mention in the Chronicle and none at all in the Stabroek News particularly since the issues that made the headlines today were previously addressed in some form or another?

Note the headlines in the two major dailies on the day that Mrs Walcott’s murder was reported: in the Chronicle, "Airing of Douglas Tape: Govt warns TV stations of sanctions"; "Black flags for mourning for slain couple"; "Kwakwani crisis stems from frustrated process, Luncheon says". Meanwhile the headlines for the Stabroek News were "Trinidad bank may move soon against Mazaruni Granite"; No evidence that Hendricks’ body tampered with - police" and "Quick thinking by businessman foils bandits."

Moreover, in the Chronicle, the language used to decribe this murder was clinical and restrained, unlike that used to describe the brutal murders of Ramdeo Persaud and Mahadai Magoo which brought tears to my eyes.

Why do we continually as a society trivialise the lives of women who have been killed at the hands of their male relatives? Who will follow up on this story? Who wants to know how the five children feel now that their mother has been killed three days after Mother’s Day? Who sympathises and cries when he/she hears of those two grandchildren - one and three years old - sitting and crying next to the dead woman’s body? Who offers an opinion of the long-term impact of witnessing this heinous crime on these two babies? Who will demand that the `Black Clothes’ police hunt down this murderer? Who will march down the streets on this woman’s behalf? Which talk show host will address crimes of this nature? Why haven’t our Chambers of Commerce and business associations condemned the killing of Guyanese women of all ethnic groups in domestic situations in the same way they so rightly condemn the killing of businessmen?

The hypocrisy of almost all segments of this society is astounding. Simply put, since no one stands to gain any mileage out of poor Dorita’s death, the crime meted out to her becomes a mere footnote as it has for so many other women. When are we as a society going to address the issue of violence in a holistic manner - condemning ALL forms of violence, against ALL groups, perpetrated by ANYONE - whether bandit, Black Clothes police or boyfriend?

Yours faithfully,

Mellissa Ifill

Editor’s note:

Murders of women as a result of domestic violence do make it onto our front pages. The most recent example of this was in the April 22 edition of the Stabroek News where the brutal chopping to death of Monica Walker in South Ruimveldt was reported. In the case of Dorita Walcott, we were unable to report on it as we did not have a correspondent or reporter in the area at the time of the attack. Had we had the information it would have been on the front page.

Once reported, these stories are followed up as often as possible. In Saturday’s edition we reported on the denouement in the case of the killing of Dhanmattie Williams where the accused was found guilty and jailed. We try as often as possible to follow up these cases and also coverage in non-fatal cases. In the Sunday Stabroek of May 14th we reported on the plight of Marcelle Williams who was severely chopped by a male relative and harboured continuing fears for her safety.