TODAY the nation says a final goodbye to Andrea Bharatt, the young woman whose brutal ending has become a symbol of the violence from which so many of our women die, and with which so many others live. She leaves behind a family caught in its own worst nightmare and a nation reeling from direct exposure to the wreckage of a criminal justice system.
In any other year, today would have been Fantastic Friday with the calendar event being the International Soca Monarch competition. We knew coming into the year that there would be no Fantastic Friday. Covid-19 had seen to that. But we never expected to be entering Carnival weekend swimming in an ocean of tears for another lost member of our tribe.
As we say goodbye to another murdered woman, and another youthful life cut short by violence we must quickly figure out what series of immediate actions will put the brake on criminals while we work out how to repair the broken system to deliver a safer country.
In Puerto Rico last month, widespread outrage over the killing of Nurse Angie Noemi Gonzalez by her partner prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency over gender violence. The measure gave Gov Pedro Pierluisi broad powers to implement policies across government agencies aimed at preventing violence against women.
In Trinidad and Tobago, we are still waiting for the Government’s response to the wildfire of spreading anger at the unrelenting violence against women.
So far, the Government seems unable to see the problem beyond partisan politics. Its attempt to divide public opinion through the Evidence Amendment Bill has fallen flat because the country understands that removing the cancer of crime requires far much more than a legal scalpel. It goes without saying that politicians of every stripe will seek advantage in the current situation. If Government MPs were in the Opposition at this time they, too, would be in the frontline of protest. But the predictable playing out of political agendas does not alter the reality of the national state of insecurity, particularly among women and girls.
People are standing together on this issue because they know that violence is no respecter of political affiliation, race, age, religion, income, education or social standing. Anyone paying attention to the outpouring on social media of personal experiences by girls and women who have experienced sexual assault would know that this issue cuts far deeper than any social barrier. Almost every female wakes up each day knowing she can be a target of sexual aggression, whether inside her home, on the road, in an office, at church or at recreation. In the United States, black parents have been sharing what it feels like to have “that talk” with their young black sons about avoiding becoming targets of racist violence. Here in T&T, parents have “that talk” with their daughters: what not to wear, how not to walk, where not to be, how not to watch… to avoid becoming another statistic. It is too late for Andrea Bharatt but saving others may be possible if we begin by facing the truth.