DOMESTIC violence against women and the heinous crime of rape -- even children -- have emerged as an epidemic in too many member states of our Caribbean Community (Caricom), with Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados reportedly being the worst examples of such criminality.
Leaders and ministers of government are always issuing rhetorical denunciations and pledges to expedite action to deal more effectively with these vicious crimes. But, alas, there is yet to be any creative strategy, at a regional level, to counter the scourge of domestic violence against women and the rape of teenage and even younger children in their homes, on their way to or from school, or just anywhere the depraved among us choose to commit their dastardly crimes.
Perhaps our two women prime ministers of Caricom -- Jamaica's Portia Simpson Miller and Trinidad and Tobago's Kamla Persad-Bissessar -- should consider jointly hosting a special brain-storming forum with relevant cabinet colleagues, for example attorneys general and ministers responsible for women's affairs, social services, education and police services to come forward with ideas on new initiatives for collective, national/regional assaults to combat domestic violence and rape.
Such a forum could result in a critical review of the relevance and effectiveness of existing laws in dealing with these crimes.
I have been motivated to write this column following a development in Barbados last week when the local media reported the country's Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite as pledging to enact new legislation soon to combat the scourge of domestic violence.
Well, without questioning the sincerity of Attorney General Brathwaite's assurance, I regret having to distressingly learn about such official assurances far too often, not just in Barbados, but other jurisdictions of our Caribbean Community -- Jamaica among them.
I am therefore left to wonder whether the Barbados attorney general's pledge was really motivated by the latest spirited intervention of Marilyn Rice-Bowen, president of the National Organisation of Women.
The painful truth is that from Jamaica in the northern sub-region, to Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and Suriname in the south, and across the eastern Caribbean, too many women, of all ages, are victims of degrading violence, some dying at times in the presence of helpless children and other family members.
Then, as part of routine media reports we receive, post facto, police accounts of the circumstances, at times while the body of the victims of criminal domestic violence are being taken to a hospital morgue or funeral home.
Focus on police
It is particularly distressing, to judge from recent media reports out of Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago with which I am more familiar, that some of the cases could well have been avoided had the police been more vigilant and committed in fulfilling their official duties to act with haste and efficiency, consistent with the oath they solemnly took when joining the ranks of the force.
It is also of relevance to note, unpleasant as it is, that since some members of the region's police services are themselves engaged in domestic violence -- against both unemployed and bread-winning wives and mothers, as well as against their teenage and younger children -- it could be quite challenging for such cops to move with required efficiency and integrity to deal, as professionally required, with recurring cases of domestic brutalities.
For those who doubt that such crimes are being committed by individuals sworn to uphold the rule of law, questions could be directed to women cabinet ministers of governments within Caricom, who have portfolio responsibilities for women's affairs and social services.
It may also be useful to learn what new policies exist in national police services to deal with crimes of domestic violence and rape, and whether such ideas have been shared with or inform the thinking of heads of local police services who belong to the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police.
On the question of enactment of legislation to deal with domestic violence, all heads of government should ensure that their respective attorneys general, and police commissioners have prepared for parliamentary approval revised and enlightened legislation to deal effectively with the twin degrading crimes of rape and violence, which are currently traumatising countless families across our Caribbean Community.