“When you get so mad that you want to ROAR!! Take a deep breath and count to FOUR; 1-2-3-4!” — kindergarten rhyme
Mon. Nov. 29, 2021
November 25 marked the beginning of a declared “16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence” in Belize, being spearheaded by the National Women Commission (NWC) and, while it is appropriate because of the reported sad state of affairs in our country right now, is it enough? “Violence against women” is a big problem, and it appears to be getting worse under the confining conditions of the restrictions due to the current Covid-19 pandemic. According to NWC president Thea Garcia Ramirez, as reported in the Amandala of Friday, November 26, “as much as 80% of the total cases of gender-based violence against women are perpetrated by a partner or ex-partner. The occurrence has become so frequent that the term ‘intimate partner violence’ has been coined.” Whether 16 days or 16 years, time may not be the critical issue here; and it may well prove fruitful to invest some effort in a different approach to conquering this problem.
Perhaps, our efforts so far may have not been very successful because, like when one cuts off the top of “sour head” grass leaving the root, it just grows right back in a few weeks’ time. The root of the problem of “violence against women” unquestionably lies in the hearts and minds of the men who commit these acts of violence. But the troubled hearts and minds of these men have gotten limited attention, while much effort continues to be made to salve the wounds and repair the damage inflicted on “the weaker sex” by brothers who are themselves desperately in need of reparation to their severely twisted and compromised egos and sense of self-worth.
An old African proverb said, “As a man thinketh, so is he.” Which begs the question, what does it take to really be a man? And why are some men inclined to abuse a beautiful thing called “love” and turn it into a sense of ownership and power, where they feel like, “If I can’t have you, nobody else will”?
In tackling this question, it must be acknowledged that, in our Third World, post-slavery and colonialism society, the whole socioeconomic structure has tended to hammer home in males the perception that their manly worth in relation to the opposite sex hinges on their superior physical strength. Perhaps some efforts should be expended during these “16 Days” to find a way, besides incarceration and punishment after the fact, to correct this tendency in some of our men, so that we don’t succumb to primeval instincts of physical retaliation when our “woman” confronts us with situations that we can’t seem to handle. “Turning the other cheek” is easier said than done; and it takes a very “big man” to walk away when he is rejected or feels his sense of manhood threatened or somehow diminished by the woman “in his life.”
This is not an easy topic. And there are no easy answers. But because the problem of crime and violence has escalated under these Covid-19 conditions, and violence against women has apparently also not gotten any better, we hereby dare to venture a suggestion that may help in the mix of methods and approaches being employed to address this very troubling matter.
There are some crimes that will always be present whenever and wherever large groups of people live together in some social arrangement. It is just inevitable that a few will “slip through the cracks” and commit violent crimes, whether it be murder, or rape, or robbery, or other violence against the “weaker sex”. But in a healthy community, be it a village, town or city, it should not be a prevalent problem, men committing violence against women, so much so that there needs to be an organization just to address this issue, and now even 16 days of activities focused on this dreadful dilemma. There have been hard times in Belize from colonial days to the present, and certainly there were occasional incidents of violence by men towards their female partners; but either it was kept very secret, which was difficult in our close-knit housing communities, or such incidents were not that common as they seem to have become in recent decades.
Following the strides in the American civil rights movement of the late 1950s and 1960s, there arose also the Women’s Liberation Movement; and thereafter a lot of focus has been on empowering women and having their full human rights respected — voting rights, education rights, employment rights, political rights, etc.; but admittedly, it has been an uphill battle.
Nevertheless, times have surely changed, and whereas before the 1960s the norm was for a woman’s “place” to be in the home, while the man went out to work, today there are many women in the workplace, even outnumbering men in some institutions. And in graduation exercises of all our high schools, sixth forms and local universities, females have been increasingly outnumbering males.
What caused that change? Was it all due to “Women’s Lib”? That question may need some study. And we would suggest here that there may also be a correlation between the commencement of this trend of male dropouts from our education system, with the advent of crack cocaine in Belize in the early 1980s, and the spinoff gang culture and accompanying violence that resulted. Our young males have increasingly been falling by the wayside, dropping out of school for whatever reason – dying from gun violence, joining gangs, going to jail, or just being unable to meet the rising cost of education.
As mentioned before, this is a complex problem, and we don’t profess to have all the answers. But we would offer an observation that more attention needs to be given to the educational and spiritual development of the young male, so that his concept of manhood is not, as circumstances sometimes imply, limited to the money in his pocket, his sexual prowess, the strength of his hand, or the gun he carries; which leaves him few options when a female partner, by words or actions, rejects or challenges him, or questions his manhood. Empowering our women may have at the same time led to a sense of insecurity in some men who have been rendered powerless by “the system.” There is nothing like a job, a hard day’s work for a decent pay, to make an individual feel like “somebody.”
“Progress brings problems.” (GCP) And whereas in generations past, young men were nurtured in the love game with popular songs that spoke of our women as “queens”, and it was okay for a strong man to cry over a broken heart, the macho image of the modern drug culture and the associated musical genre that influences many young males, often discard women as “bitches and hoes”, and the verbal disrespect easily becomes physical.
As stated a few weeks ago in our House of Representatives, Reparations are in order from the Europeans for Belize and other Caribbean countries that experienced slavery and the long-lasting effects of that system that persist upon generations of our citizens. Some may say it is not related, as violence against women in Belize is reported within all our various ethnic groups. Regardless, some kind of reparation is urgently needed to heal the impaired psyche of those males in our society who entertain a sense of entitlement and superiority over females, whose fragile egos can’t endure a challenge to their authority from the opposite sex, and who still think that they are being men by committing violence against women.
Brethren, it has been said that “woman” is in essence the “womb of man”, meaning the sacred and precious vehicle through which all mankind is brought into this world. Think twice if the thought ever enters your mind to bring physical harm to Jah’s greatest gift. When your heart and your mind find you leaning that way, remember that is a sign of weakness, not strength. Get help, brothers!