Posted on

Unintended consequences


Tue, Nov 22. 2011

Editor: The article that appeared in the Toronto Star newspaper on November 12th brings to light a situation that has long been an open secret, not only in St. Vincent and the Grenadines but also the rest of the Caribbean: the treatment of women in our society.{{more}}

It is a known fact in the Caribbean, the way in which men typically treat women. Young boys grow up in homes and communities and see these horrific actions every day and think it is normal behavior. Unfortunately, they are taught that it is a sign of weakness if you cannot physically control a wife or girlfriend. It is not confined to the Caribbean; it is a global problem; even the very Canada that these women seek refuge has its fair share of horrific stories.

I read stories like these all the time and we all know the aim. It especially serves to bring shame on a country, and in particular, to highlight the inactivity of a government, the system and the police service. In this case, as in most cases, it is done at the expense of these vulnerable women.

Abuse of women in the Caribbean is not new. It’s been going on for decades. Regardless of the figures quoted, it will always be the same, unless we decide to do something. The ease of access to information through the Internet since 2000 has made it look as though it is a new phenomenon and that the number of cases is rising. I remember in the 1980’s, person(s) were recruiting women from Barbados, Trinidad and St. Vincent to travel to the Netherlands for ‘employment’. If we had access to the Internet then, we would have been exposed to the abuse and some of the horror stories involved in that episode. And probably the culprits would have been exposed. As always, it’s our dirty little secret. Hush!

It is now being exposed. However, what is troubling and disturbing is the fact that story after story is reported on, and no one in authority seems to be bothered to do anything about it. Even the reporter who wrote the story is just satisfied with exposing what is going on and not finding out what solutions are forthcoming from those in authority. Police officers who do nothing when abuse is reported should themselves be suspended from duty or charged. Men should teach their boys that in respecting themselves it would come naturally for them to respect women in their household and communities.

By the way, the Human Rights Association in St. Vincent and the Grenadines should be investigated as to the legality of them sending these abused women to Canada. Don’t get me wrong, I applaud their efforts and understand that they are trying to help, but not all help sometimes turns out to be good help. The future of sending more abused women is at risk should the easy access to Canada be cut off, and the human rights association should know better. It would seem as though they are exacerbating the situation. Force the police to deal with these abuse cases; challenge the system and get them to take the state protection laws that exist on paper and make them work; that is the job of a human rights association, not to take the easy way out.

The unintended consequence is that Canadians are now looking at their immigration system. Once you claim refugee status in Canada, you are automatically put into their social program, receiving housing, medical care, etc., which is paid for by Canadian tax payers until your case is heard. As one Canadian said, if she were to turn up in St. Vincent seeking same, would the government reciprocate? And more importantly, would Vincentians be sympathetic to an influx of Canadians the same way?

Another Canadian wrote of the story: “… of asylum from any third world country grow as the word travels back home about what to say and the claims start to accelerate. Canada had to slap visas on Mexico as claims were growing year over year and would appear the same needs to be done for St. Vincent. Canada is becoming a sinking lifeboat and very soon won’t be able to offer anyone a better life, including its own citizens!”

Canadians are sympathetic to the plight of these women; however, they look at the bigger picture, and that is the ability of their nation to be able to provide for them in the future. Think about it; they receive claims from nationalities from around the world every day. How much longer do you think they would be able to sustain such a social system? St. Vincent and the Grenadines too should look towards its future and make a huge effort to reduce the abuse of their women. It must no longer be kept a secret. Abusers must be brought to justice! That’s the only way.

The abuse of any human being is not acceptable and should not be tolerated, regardless. (Notice I did not state any gender).

Those in authority need to make the system work. Who are those in authority? Each and every Vincentian. We are responsible for the abuse of our sisters, mothers, and grandmothers. It is our responsibility to protect them. It is our duty to report abuse when it occurs on behalf of those who cannot.

Stop talking, stop writing (myself included), and start taking action! It speaks much louder than words and will make a difference.

Yvon Charles-Chee