Monday, 26 October 2009

State-sanctioned abuse is not 'discipline'

Last weekend, when I grabbed the newspaper from the little old man who is so gingerly perched on the island in the middle of traffic that I'm nervous to move too quickly lest everything topple over and throw him to his demise in front of a sugar cane tractor, I was alarmed. Not by the newspaper man - he's safe - but by the enormous front page photo and the story that accompanied it. And so I became caught up in a frenzied clack-clacking on my computer, filled with outrage and wonder, which I then had to suspend because of other work. And alas, the outrage has not returned in sufficient measure to pick up exactly where I left off. But here's the photo in question, with my own description excerpted below, as I began to write it last weekend.

(The front page picture of a senior teacher at a local secondary boys' school who made the decision to wait at the school gates and publicly flog any student who arrived late. Do you need to re-read that? I'll give you a minute. The photographer went one better than that, though. He included in the shot not just the teacher with his cane or stick or whatever it was, but him actually taking hold of a student and beating him. Another minute? Take your time.

The above shot was taken from the online version of the story, and was not the one used on the front page of the paper version. In this one, the child is taller than the teacher, and is glancing disdainfully at the man as if to say "dude, do you know how long it took me to fix my pants like this? You're really harshing my look here." So it's an offensive image, but not as immediately jarring as the front page photo of the smaller child who looks about 11 and taken quite by surprise.)

Since that story was published, the debate has opened up quite a bit about the legitimacy of flogging in schools. And you know what? I don't understand it. I don't understand how we get into heated arguments around whether it is an effective disciplinary measure to engage in the state-sanctioned beating of other human beings when we've already answered that question in the negative. Remember? We used to have this monstrosity called the cat o' nine tails with which we beat convicted criminals? And this and all other forms of judicial corporal punishment were formally declared inhumane and consequently unconstitutional by the Barbados Supreme Court?

Yet, in 2009, pastors and educators and Matthew Farleys abound, writing articles and giving interviews contrasting crime and social statistics and all manner of 'moral indicators' - whatever those are - in countries where flogging is banned with those where it is still practiced, and arguing on this basis that beating the crap out of children represents the yellow brick road to Utopia. And I used to get all caught up in those arguments myself. I used to yell from my side of the aisle about how Caribbean societies seemed so well-behaved because 1) children who are systematically beaten often don't manifest learned, violent behaviours until they are much older, making it harder (also because of high numbers of migration) to draw a straight line from a beaten child to his criminal behaviour; 2) becoming an offender within the judicial system is not the only manifestation of being generally screwed up; and 3) there are plenty other factors at work keeping our 'moral indicators' as the moral majority would like than corporal punishment - just give a glance to the 'crimes' still on the law books, like homosexuality and dressing like a woman, as opposed to those not on the law books, like marital rape. And on I would go blah-blahing within the parameters of reasoned insanity.

I once even got my bristle board and Sharpie out and picketed the headmaster's office at my school, because he was about to flog (behind closed doors and with no one else present) a teenaged girl who had filled condoms with water and distributed them to her friends to have a laugh.


That's what my sign said. I was 15 years old, and traumatized by the notion that a grown man was going to splay a 16-year-old girl across his desk and beat her, and we were saying that was alright because she happened to be on a school compound between the hours of 9 and 3 and he happened to be called Headmaster.

But these days, I hardly get that far into debates about whether flogging works as a disciplinary action, because I find it absurd that it is even an option. Sure it works in the short term to rule and silence a population with fear, violence and intimidation. We have countless examples of that throughout history, and even today; and we condemn them all. What changes when the population in question is below the age of 18? I would think we'd be more indignant and less willing to do harm to those we're meant to protect.

And how can we draw so neat a line between child abuse - with which this region is struggling more and more every year - and flogging in schools? I hear all kinds of silly little differentiators: "Flogging should not be done in anger, and only by principals and senior teachers." Because that's not at all inhumane. Let's pencil the offending student in for a 2:00 p.m. flogging, yet expect her to be academically productive in the meantime, and then march her off to headteachers' chambers at the appointed hour for a detached, methodical beating. Yeah, that's much better. Then there's the old "I was flogged as a child, and it didn't do me any harm. I turned out great!" Yeah, you turned out great alright. You turned out to be an adult who thinks it's ok to hit children. Well done, you.

I was flogged as a child, and it did me harm. It did me harm to realize that the people I trusted not to hurt me could not be trusted after all, and that their kindness and care were conditional upon certain behaviours that I was still learning. That horrified me. It did me harm to watch my neighbour and primary school classmate walking up the street from school, limping, and when we, concerned, pulled back her skirt, to see her fair skin black-and-blue and purple, bruised, swollen and tender from a teacher's bamboo rod. I cried for her that evening, and had trouble sleeping for days after. It did me harm to have to stand up for myself as an 11-yr old, to tell the principal I would not, in fact, allow him to hit me because I had gotten one problem out of 100 wrong (one strike per wrong answer), and then to feel the victory seep away from me after I sat down again and realized that no one was going to defend the students who had gotten 10 wrong, or 20, or 30. It did me harm to watch my sisters awakened in the middle of the night and struck for some newly-discovered transgression, like reading the wrong type of book, or saying hello to the wrong type of neighbour. I love my parents, and had some great teachers, but the fact that I'm not currently incarcerated for murder doesn't mean none of that did me harm.

Human beings have short memories. So sure, we feel fine now. But children's worlds are small, and the adults who occupy them very, very big. It's time for us to stop finding ways to justify organized, state-sanctioned abuse, get off our lazy asses and parent our children.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Nandy is taking off for a few days

I'm travelling to some meetings this week, so posting will be lighter than usual, if you can imagine that. (You'll notice that I'm yet to re-establish my minimum one-post-daily schedule. That should be followed by a 'but' or 'because', I suppose. I don't have any of those. Life is happening and I'm going with it, keeping the old daily schedule as the goal.)

In the meantime, and for no reason at all, here's the opening sequence from one of my favourite childhood shows, Cro, a short-lived TV series whose character narrator, Phil, is a once-frozen woolly mammoth thawed out in the twentieth century by archaeologists. Phil uses current science problems to draw parallels with his old life among the other mammoths and his human friends back in Woollyville.

The story-telling was great, and the encouragement to have fond memories of people or times we've lost was a great message for children. Women on the show were scientists, warriors and caregivers, and there was very little pink, which was a welcomed break. Also, one of my dear friends - back then and to this day - used to call me Nandy, a female character on the show, because he found my arms 'freakishly long'. Little did he know that I was severely flattered, because Nandy was awesome.

Some day, I'll locate all the old episodes of this thing and have a cheesy nostalgia marathon.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Your guffaw of the day

The Guardian reports that the British National Party (BNP) will now deign to let non-White people join its racist hate-fest. Somewhere, Clayton Bigsby is joyfully shaking his stick.

The far-right British National party has agreed to change its constitution to allow non-white people to join, it emerged today.

The BNP confirmed it would consider changes to its rules and membership criteria after the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched county court proceedings against the party's leader, Nick Griffin, and two other party officials: Simon Darby and Tanya Jane Lumby.

So it's not that they actually want to allow non-White people in their party, it's that they'll get in trouble if they don't. So I don't know why the EHRC is releasing bogus statements of approval:

John Wadham, group director legal at the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said: "We are pleased that the party has conceded this case and agreed to all of the commission's requirements. Political parties, like any other organisation are obliged to respect the law and not discriminate against people."

Not discriminate against people. John, do you even know what the BNP is? Have you read their manifesto? Are we really going to pretend that preventing a racist party from upholding discrimination in its membership is as important or valuable as addressing the discrimination and incitement to racial hatred in its stated policies and ideologies?

Still, as ridiculous as this all seems, and though it is alarmingly insufficient, it had to be done. The BNP does exist, and while they can't be forcibly dissolved, they can and should be pressured in every way possible. And perhaps some good will come from it. I imagine it's a lot more difficult to denounce entire non-White groups of people when handfuls of them are sitting among your membership in the front row. That might be an interesting experiment.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

More homophobic reporting in the Nation

A HOMOSEXUAL TRYST that turned into robbery and ended in death went before the No. 2 Supreme Court yesterday.

This is how the Nation newspaper begins its story on a manslaughter trial currently underway here. Translation: gayness will kill you. And have you noticed how the sentence implies that it's the actual 'homosexual tryst' that's the crime here? If we remove the qualifiers, we get: "a homosexual tryst went before the No. 2 Supreme Court yesterday." And that's precisely how the article is written.

Here's what I think happens on the newsroom floor of the Nation:

Reporter: I'd like to cover the Courts today. There's a manslaughter trial up.
Editor: Oh. Anything interesting there?
Reporter: I think the men involved are gay. In fact, I heard when one of them was killed, they were being all gay together.
Editor: Really! Well...make sure to lead with that. The gayness. Write as much as you can about any gay sex that was involved, and let's close with a restatement about how gay everything was.
Reporter: Anything else? Like about the victim's family or...
Editor: Nope! Just the gayness will do. Everyone knows gayness goes hand in hand with death and destruction, and we have a duty to represent that.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Are we still saying that? Because we should stop

While I was doing my post-grad work in Economics (capitalizing that word feels like such a joke), and even well before then, the academics in the know never tired of mentioning that We, as a collective of thinkers and activists, had ceased to use the expression Third World. Instead, we talked about developing nations, or less/least developed countries, a move to which I wholly subscribed, because although I feel quite alone in this, I detest the phrase Third World.

But all of a sudden, everywhere I look, I see it springing up again. And I'm starting to wonder whether I only dreamt the popular rejection of the term years ago, or whether it's enjoying some kind of rebirth. It certainly hasn't been redefined: it's a handy little moniker that encapsulates any brand of nastiness or degradation you might imagine, and it's quite the punchline. Hate the state in which your office bathrooms are kept? Liken it to a Third World country. Annoyed that your hotel only offers three varieties of cream cheese at breakfast? Call it a Third World diet. It's an exaggeration, see? So it's funny! Lawl and stuff!

Implicit in these comparisons is the realization that the speakers not only have no idea about the reality of life in the so-called Third World, but further, don't give a crap. They're able to so flippantly refer to the poverty and lack of opportunity in some of these nations because they're comfortable - not with the actual state of things, of which they have only a vague knowledge, or none - but with the fabled state of things. Starvation, disease and war existing on such a scale for such a length of time need not be treated with any reverence or respect, one, because it is completely removed from their lives and doesn't affect them, and two, because some of the countries of the global South have, in the estimation of these speakers, become horror stories in themselves, and thus have transitioned into some kind of mythical status. Except, we're not talking about centaurs and unicorns here. We're talking about real, live, accessible people's lives, of which, if someone can hit Enter on a keyboard, they can approach some basic understanding.

Further, the term Third World obscures all parts of a country's culture apart from those which are to be pitied or improved. By no great coincidence, so does the mainstream media. Back in March, I highlighted the efforts of Chioma and Oluchi Ogwuegbu: two Nigerian sisters who had purposed to tell the story of the Africa behind all that media footage of distended bellies and power-hungry rebels. It's not that a discussion of the problems of developing nations is not needed. It is. But when you commit to systematically representing a country solely as victims, you show only one part of who its people are, and not the greatest part. Third World also implies homogeneity across all the countries that are meant to comprise this class, one which simply does not exist economically, socially or politically. It suggests that regardless of level of economic and social development, comparative advantages or system of governance, they are all to be singularly treated always as less than.

And the final issue I have with this term is perhaps the most obvious: it suggests a hierarchy that in people's minds is not neatly restricted to some ranking of progress in development indicators, and certainly not to the historical allegiance of nations during the Cold War, as its origins are claimed to be, but is attached to real people and by association, their ethnicities. It suggests that the US with its White majority is innately better than, say, India, and encourages not an examination of global inequality as a result of historical exploitation, but of the notion that these countries have less because they are objectively worth less. And that was its intent. When Frenchman Alfred Sauvy coined the term half a century ago, he was so inspired to do by the presence of the Third Estate in France, the commoners who, by virtue of their position, Sauvy thought destined to be in an eternal state of revolution against the higher classes of the First and Second Estates. "Like the third estate," he famously wrote, "the Third World has nothing, and wants to be something."

Leaders at the Bandung Conference that followed in 1955 embraced the designation as an indication of a new bloc, but that designation, tenuous even then, means nothing now. And anyone from a developing country who wants to reclaim the expression can, I suppose, go ahead and do so. I choose not to. I, as a Black woman from the Caribbean, am third in no one's pecking order. This is not sensitivity to a useful academic category or definition - although even those types of objections often have merit. This is the thorough rejection of a highly stigmatized, completely arbitrary categorization that serves no purpose other than to equate a certain geographical provenance and ethnic heritage with lack and degradation.

I do not accept it, and I would encourage allies of we who originate, live and work on human rights and development in the global South to also reject it.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

A new look at our Chinese connection

On Thursday, China marked six decades of Communist rule with an enormous, highly-choreographed parade displaying its military might and seeming to celebrate - with its strict formations and careful selection of local spectators - rigid conformity among its people. At least that's how it struck me when I turned my TV on to our one local channel and saw the parade, which was being televised here. In Barbados. On the one local channel.

Granted I was a bit woozy with sleep when I turned on the television. Still languishing in my cable-free existence, I don't watch much TV these days. But every now and then, Channel 8 will broadcast some show offering information that I probably wouldn't otherwise have accessed. A few weeks ago, there was one explaining and seeking solutions for our problems with coastal erosion and the coral reefs that we've managed to destroy, and more recently, a great series of interviews with experts and activists working to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in Barbados. So I tuned in on Thursday night in the hopes that I might see something illuminating, and I suppose that's what I got, in so far as the broadcast of the celebrations caused me to realize just how much our 'diplomatic involvement' with China seems to be growing, and to simultaneously ponder what in sky-blue tarnation Prime Minister Thompson and his Cabinet are brewing over there in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Now, Barbados has engaged in diplomatic relations with China since the 1970s, and the two countries have a well established history of bilateral economic cooperation as well as cultural exchanges. Chinese economic funding of capital projects here has been accompanied by the country's provision of its own workforce on such projects, and over time, the appearance of Chinese temporary migrant workers has increased. The population of more permanent migrants has also seemed to grow steadily, but still represents a miniscule proportion of our population. In recent months, the Thompson administration has placed huge emphasis on its efforts to increase the proportion of economic assistance that comes from China. In fact, it appears to be government's key economic strategy for containing the deficit while continuing to grow the economy through the funding of capital projects. Less transparent, however, has been the other part of the equation: what are the conditionalities, if any, upon which this economic assistance is contingent? Is this aid tied to any development indicators? To the reciprocity of economic goodwill via, for example, absorption of an increased Chinese labour force? In short, what does China stand to gain from giving us all this money?

We're not sure, but in the meantime, the current administration has embarked upon some kind of "Embrace China" campaign, in which Thursday's parade was prefaced by the exhortations of the PM to watch the proceedings, proceedings which were clearly meant to convince anyone watching of China's greatness as a socialist nation that has avoided the economic ruin plaguing other countries, and also of the fact that they have large guns, and know how to use them. The spectacle was, frankly, disturbing. And as we saw the odd proximity of flag-bearing children to tanks and rocket launchers and the giant portrait of Chairman Mao floating imperiously across Tiananmen Square, one wondered why the Barbados government was so invested in having us observe, invested enough to send us a special message to watch on television, just as China's President Hu Jintao had sent a message to its citizens. Why China would want its own citizens to watch is not difficult to fathom: as China's economic power and prospecting grow abroad, so too does the backlash against its presence and policies, and with it, the relative insecurity of its people living in the countries on whom it has set its mercantilist sights. Over 3000 Chinese tourists were hurriedly evacuated from Thailand during civil unrest in November last year. And from the coast of Somalia to Papua New Guinea and even nearer home in Xinjiang and Tibet, China has been actively engaged in using military force to suppress uprisings in order, ostensibly, to protect its assets and people. So Thursday's parade was meant to convince not so much its Western competitors as its own people both at home abroad of the government's capacity to protect and its general wonderfulness concerning the country's development. I'd imagine that if a government is really successful, it wouldn't take hours of marching and weapons displays for its citizens to be convinced, but we know that China has never been one for the soft touch when it comes to influencing what its people 'believe'.

But I'm still not sure why even they would care about how 270 000 people on a little rock in the Caribbean Sea perceive them. As it stands, the handful of Chinese living here are not under threat from much of anything, except perhaps idiotic calypso songs, (which when you consider how idiotic might actually be something of an incentive to increase cultural awareness). But apart from that, why insist on broadcasting such an intimidating show of Chinese strength in li'l ole Barbados? Especially without any context or introduction? I have to confess that even as a non-alarmist who has some understanding of Chinese economic and foreign policy, even I was starting to get nervous about possible appropriation of our entire country by the Chinese government. I found myself thinking for a brief, silly moment, "Holy crap...David Thompson done gone and sold the whole of Barbados to the Chinese in exchange for a couple schools and some gymnastics lessons." One imagines (and dearly hopes) that nothing quite so sinister is afoot here, and that this broadcast was nothing more than a type of popularity campaign on which the Barbados government has promised to embark in exchange for oodles of Chinese cash. But this doesn't make the whole thing any less irritating. In fact, it probably makes it more so. And here's why:

The following night, as I looked at the little Channel 8 programming list they air before the 7:00 news, I noticed that slotted in at around 8:30 was some show vaguely called "Chinese Culture". So I tuned in to find a programme featuring a very small-voiced, female narrator describing the virtues of Chinese farming practices, healing techniques, gastronomy and who knows what else. It was a naive little crash course in the tourist's China, looked like it was recorded in the 80s, and didn't say much of anything. By the next night, when an identical show appeared in the lineup, I was starting to get simultaneously confused and annoyed. The series struck me as a silly little propaganda campaign (ack! there's that word) meant to convince us that there's nothing wrong with having China foot our capital projects bill (someone doth protest too much) because they're really cool people who know how to shoot guns and do acupuncture. And once I had again convinced myself that the Prime Minister had not in fact sold us off as a new Chinese colony, I began to feel insulted by this ridiculously superficial and misleading 'education campaign'.

First of all: don't try to handle me. (I've always wanted to say that, preferably while sitting across a boardroom table from Bill Gates or Condoleeza Rice, but this will do.) Don't handpick little soundbytes about horticulture and food preparation and sell them to me as a representation of modern-day China. Not only does it obscure far more important aspects of the historical making of the People's Republic of China as a nation and the way its society functions today, but honestly, it's just a weak, lazy attempt at cultural integration. If I were China, I would ask for my money back.

Second, if people truly have concerns about our dependence on development aid from China, they are more likely to do with the country's human rights record: the Chinese government's restrictions on free speech and the media, independent organizing and religious freedom continue apace. Lack of due judicial process operates alongside the torture and ill-treatment of prisoners, and the country's one-child, family planning policy represents more violations of human dignity and reproductive rights than can be discussed here. After Iran and Saudi Arabia, China executes the most people per capita in the word, including for crimes like tax evasion. (Although if you kill your girlfriend, you're straight; especially if you promise to pay for her. You break it, you buy it, dude.)

This is not to say that diplomatic relations have to be severed in order to take an ideological stand against the undesirable parts of a country's system of governance. In fact, it's often more effective to engage than to dissociate. That is, when you're the U.S or UK or any country larger than an area rug. When you're Barbados, you don't roll up into China and say "you know what, we'd love to take your millions but we're concerned about the status of the Uighurs in Tibet, so let's start that dialogue." No. You say "Ooh millions! Thankees!" Because no one cares. You have nothing to offer and no one cares what you have to say. Your two possible courses of action are: take the money/don't take the money. And while there might be room for negotiation on less important points, China is not taking advice from David Thompson on its human rights record.

So the PM takes the money: there are arguments for and against that. This we acknowledge. But don't insult us by launching a media campaign pretending that China is all economic success and beautiful (-ly controlled) weather, and engaging in your own brand of revisionist/selective education. It's maddening. And stupid. Clearly the PM is not going to grab China's money and then run home to engage in long, televised debates about the death penalty or the war in Tibet. But neither should he gloss it all over with mindless little 'culture shows' as if we can't read, or have no international social conscience. It only makes me angry, and want to further question not only the content of any new bilateral agreements with China, but the general foreign policy skill of Barbados's current administration. Which suggests to me that whatever the PM's goal may have been, the whole thing backfired a little.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Can we be clear once and for all on who suffers most and worst from intimate-partner violence? Please?

I wasn't going to write about this, because this type of argument exhausts me, but here it is, stuck in my craw, and it doesn't seem to be moving. So onward.

Any discussion encompassing gender in Barbados seems to be permanently stuck on the old "but it happens to men too!" or "men suffer worse!" refrain. And the media seems quite happy to play that tit-for-tat game: every issue must be highlighted as having equal effects and repercussions for men and women, whether this be the case or not; and - I suppose through some naïve interpretation of equality - both 'perspectives' must be given equal column inches and presented with like gravity. Intimate partner violence has become chief among these.

Last week, the Nation devoted pages of coverage to the silent but apparently common scourge of woman-on-man intimate partner violence. Chairman of the Men's Educational Support Association, Ralph Boyce, who has become the self-appointed spokesperson for men's rights, was quoted heavily in one of several articles on the issue:


That's the conclusion of the chairman of the Men's Education Support Association (MESA) about men who stay in relationships where they are verbally, physically or psychologically abused by their girlfriends or spouses.

First off, I would venture that further denigrating the character of victims of abuse by publicly classifying them as 'weak' is the wrong tack to take in offering them help. But further, if feels to me as if Boyce is conflating his outrage at violence against men with his general indignation that women should dare to speak on behalf of their male partners:

"In MESA, we have some cases, luckily not too many, where men say they can't come to meetings because their wives say they can't come.

"Or, it is a case where I call a man's home to invite him to a meeting and his wife or woman says he can't come and starts giving me reasons," Boyce disclosed, adding:

"We have some surprisingly weak men in Barbados and the women hate them for it. They call them 'twerps' and twits.

Controlling behaviour is often a serious indicator of systemic violence in a relationship, but I would hesitate to categorize the declining of an invitation on a partner's behalf as psychologically abusive. One gets the sense that Boyce is really saying "listen, man up and put your foot down, and no woman will overstep her place long enough to knock you around." This is clearly an oversimplification of the dynamic of intimate partner abuse. While Boyce asserts that the problem of female violence against men has gone unaddressed because "[w]hat prevented victims from coming forward was the perceived ridicule", he ironically spends much of the article ridiculing men who have been abused, while tossing out vague generalizations like "women like men who are strong."

And he also seems to confuse anecdotal evidence with data:

"One of our members who was doing some research into physical violence told me that a man told him his wife slapped him inside the supermarket in front of everybody and the member asked him what he did, and his response was that he went outside the supermarket and cried. This is a real case," he said.

I'm not sure what to do with that. Are we to be awed by the fact that a man might suffer physical abuse at the hands of his wife? Or that he cried? Or that he didn't retaliate with 'strength', however Boyce might define this. Because for all Boyce's purported rejection of "[t]he traditional belief [...] that the man is not supposed to show any kind of emotion", he seems to subscribe to it himself. Or is this merely meant to serve as evidence that such violence exists? In which case, I, for one, don't need much convincing. I saw one such case, in fact. That is, (and since we're basing conclusions on observed evidence) one case in my entire lifetime as against oh, say, a couple hundred involving women as victims. Boyce, though, is not convinced that the problem is so uncommon:

The verbal and physical abuse is very common. A lot of the time, women initiate the violence against men.

I would love to have that 'a lot of the time' qualified (in a lot of the cases involving male victims, or the DV cases in general?), and this is a huge part of my problem with this kind of irresponsible reporting on the part of people who should know better: a respected and recognizable public figure stands up and, speaking with seeming authority and one would assume the benefit of research, claims that "a lot of the time, women initiate the violence against men", and people run off convinced that not only is violence against women not the immense public health problem it actually is, but that women actually initiate this and other types of violence, and conversely, it is violence against men that constitutes the real danger in the Caribbean.

We know that there is likely to be chronic underreporting of all types of domestic violence cases, among both men and women, but this is not a sufficient condition to deduce that men are being abused as much as women, and it's just that they're not telling anyone because people, ironically like the MESA Chairman, will call them weak. And it isn't even necessary to prove that the abuse is as widespread as that against women in order for it to be flagged as a problem: no one should have to endure abuse, and if we can provide unique support for these men that they might not get from a regular victims'/survivors of violent crime support service, then we should (although I would suggest that given his tenuous grasp of the intimate partner abuse dynamic, Mr. Boyce not be the one to offer such support).

But let us not present violence against women, as the Nation has done by first telling the stories of men who have been abused and then in a subsequent issue those of women (the latter notably in fewer pages), as on equal footing with that against men. It simply is not true, and I'm not sure what purpose it is meant to serve. It has been a hard struggle in the Caribbean, this business of eliminating violence against women, and it seems very little headway is being made. For years, activists and Ministers alike have been highlighting the grossly exceeded capacity of shelters for women and children here in Barbados, while in Jamaica, domestic-related murders jumped 20 per cent between 2005 and the end of 2006 and continue to rise, with women and girls constituting (at least) over 70% of the victims in each year of reporting.*

It would be misguided to allocate public resources meant to reduce domestic violence equally (that is, equally; that is not to say no resources should be allocated to DV against men at all) along the violence against women/violence against men divide, and to lump them together both in our discussion and treatment of the issue is also a mistake. They are simply not the same: the persistent dynamic that keeps women in abusive situations both in homes and communities; its coexistence with sexual violence and women's exercise of their sexual decision-making and rights; the higher HIV infection rate of women which operates alongside a higher care-taking burden than that of men; all these things and more separate violence against women from violence against men. I am all for public resources being allocated to the elimination of all forms of violence against our citizens, but let's keep in perspective who the most emergent victims are, and stay focused in our advocacy to save women's lives.

*Jamaica Constabulary Statistics Department Report 2007
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