Saturday Express Editorial

AS a singular contributing factor to the nine murders reported in Trinidad and Tobago in the first ten days of 2020, three of these incidents were listed as marking the violent and tragic end of domestic relationships.

The latest was Thursday’s murder in Avocat of 28-year-old Gabriella Dubarry, who had ended a relationship. And as she prepared to welcome her pupils back to school on Monday in Port of Spain, principal of a privately-run pre-school, 48-year-old Jezelle Philip-Fournillier, was set upon and stabbed to death by a man with whom she had a relationship, who then walked into a police station and gave himself up.

Earlier that morning, the decomposing bodies of a woman, her brother and their uncle were discovered in a house in Arima, all strangled.

The woman, Polly Ann Chuniesingh, 31, was apparently murdered by a man with whom she once shared a relationship.

Between 2005 and 2015, the Trinidad and Tobago Coalition Against Domestic Violence has reported that 300 women were murdered in this country. In 2017, 43 of the 52 women killed were victims of domestic violence. Also, up to 2015, the Coalition had listed 7,000 cases of domestic violence that were reported to the authorities.

These statistics tell only part of the harrowing presence of domestic violence in our midst, a social ill which continues to warrant much more action and attention than has been apparent.

Figures from the tracking of this monster in the United States, as an example, expose its psychological effects on children who witness such incidents, the huge number of hours women as victims must be absent from work, as well as the numbers of them who have lost their jobs, “due to reasons stemming from abuse.”

It has been established that domestic violence co-relates significantly with higher rates of depression and suicidal behaviour among victims, while less than 50 per cent of them receive the medical attention that often becomes necessary.

Speaking on the prevalence of the issue in T&T, gender relations expert Prof Rhoda Reddock said in 2017, “we feel our State agencies need to begin to think deeply about the factors contributing to this crisis and to go beyond what has been done before.” She called then for “a comprehensive strategy” to address issues of prevention and to shape behaviour among men. Prof Reddock, a member of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said this element of the “social order” ought to be given more and greater focus, as the society continues to expand the budget for national security.

It is noteworthy that all five of the prominent men interviewed by the Express on the subject, and whose views were carried in yesterday’s edition, spoke to what they saw clearly as the need for the males in our society to go out and get help. Former head of the Public Service, retired diplomat Reginald Dumas, called for “public sessions” in which the issue should be “confronted squarely.” Current head of the Inter-Religious Organisation, Dean Knolly Clarke, opined that the matter constituted “a problem for the whole nation,” and declared that “all the churches and all the NGOs have a role to play.”

Taking all these perspectives into serious consideration, we must use the traumatic incidents so early in the year to make an urgent call to action in recommitting ourselves to finding real, tangible, effective methods of addressing and beating back this debilitating social crisis on our hands.

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