By DR ANDRE CLARKE
DO I think about making the world a safer, better place for my children? If I had a daughter, how would I feel if she were attacked? How would I feel if my son were to attack his girlfriend? How do I feel about violence in the home?
As our population becomes a more violent, hard-talking, less tolerant and certainly far less empathetic group, and the incidence of violence increases, these questions have been coming to me more often.
Why do men feel that it is okay to sexually assault women? In fact, our society says that it is normal for men to beat and sexually assault women and to think such behaviour should be boasted about.
On the other hand, young women are increasingly violent in their relationships. They hit and manipulate their boyfriends. They insist on fighting. Again, we seem to see nothing wrong with such dehumanising behaviour. In fact, much like the lyrics of many popular songs, women are seen as punching bags. Women are more objectified today than they were 25 years ago.
The process is different now than it was decades ago, and women are buying into it. Hollywood and popular culture have merged to create a group of young women who see no problem with being sex objects, exclusively, and the property of men. Our young women are falling in line with this kind of thinking and behaviour.
“Licks is good for women, it keeps them in line.” This is especially true when young women grow up in homes where their mothers are frequently the victims of domestic violence; where they themselves are often the objects of transactional sex at the hands of parents who “need cash”.
There are far more reported cases of child abuse and incest, yet society, according to the government, is thriving.
At the same time, the Prime Minister can decry the behaviour of young men who are putting the country at risk. These messages do not compute.
While many government officials can be plundering the youth and taking their pleasures wherever they find them, as the births in marriage decrease to a resounding 39 per cent in 2010, we argue that we are a Christian nation, the young people increasingly fall victim to violence and violent thoughts and behaviours.
In fact, we encourage the youth to think violently as the inequalities between rich and poor grow and the way we treat people becomes more dehumanising and Haitians deserve to be beaten and rounded up and repatriated (yes, they are illegal, but there are ways of doing things that allow human dignity to reign).
We also encourage young boys to think they can berate, attack and sexually assault young women by the very way we speak and the behaviours we demonstrate and allow. Sitting in our homes violence finds us on TV and on the radio. Just walking out of our homes we are assaulted by violence.
Walking along Poinciana Drive the other day, I encountered a group of school boys and girls causing a commotion. The boys were ganging up on a girl in the group and thought it was great fun. One boy in particular was aggressively attacking her. They would encircle the girls and start hitting. A few people protested, but few really tried to stop the violence. I stopped and told them to stop, but no one else seemed to want to take that step.
It is interesting that Bahamian students find the most dangerous time to be when they are walking between school and home, which is what this group was obviously doing.
It was obvious that the boys “out-powered” the girls. People seemed unconcerned, for the most part. This was in the middle of the day. It also spoke volumes of the kind of society we now live in. People were too busy with their own lives to want to assist anyone else. What if that had been your daughter?
A few days earlier, also in a very public area, a man and a woman were having words. The man then decided that words were insufficient and became physical. One woman who was parked nearby shouted at him, but he seemed unconcerned by her protests.
The woman was not very smart and decided to goad the man more once he had stopped his attack. Why would such violence be necessary? Again, no other citizens stopped.
While it says something about the level of violence in our society, it also speaks to the fact that women being hit by men is not seen as violence or a problem and that most people will not intervene in a ‘domestic’ dispute, even when they are children. What if that had been your sister?
In a study conducted by the Crisis Centre and compiled by COB, the fact that domestic violence is promoted between generations becomes clear.
According to their findings, 15.9 per cent of the males polled believed that a woman who dresses too sexy deserves to get hit by her partner; 58.1 per cent of the boys believed that some women were responsible for the licks they get from their partners. This means that women, if beaten by men, are the cause of the problem. Who determines what is too sexy? Can men not control their behaviour?
Men should discipline their female partners apparently – 37.7 per cent of boys believed that while only 12.3 per cent of girls did. There are some breakdowns here. Women can be controlled by men, but many women do not agree to this control; obviously this disconnect will spark more violence.
Our attitudes make it possible for women to be slapped down in the street. They also allow women to be raped and for the attack not to be taken seriously. We argue, by the way we behave, that women are worth less than men. Our lies and deceit are sad. While the head of the Constitutional Commission can still stand up and say that the government could still bring the referendum on gender equality to the population before the next general election, given the kind of attitudes our society holds, women would not be granted equality, and in fact, our constitution runs the risk of becoming more disempowering of people rather than less disempowering.
If school-aged children can espouse the horrible attitudes that women need to be disciplined, for example, and that men can control women, and that women can be assaulted without men fearing legal or social recourse, then we have a problem.
When an alarming number of men over women think that they MUST slap up a woman to show that they are dominant, or the boss, we have a serious problem, and it is not with the youth alone. Can we start to truly work on our inequalities and misogynistic, patriarchal attitudes that spawn gender-based, sexual, and domestic violence?