By Darrion Narine
A woman once told me that if men didn’t exist for a day, she would go on a hike by herself. When she said this, I reflected on it for quite some time.
We, as men, sometimes don’t realise the simple privileges that we have in everyday life but beyond this, men also don’t realise how their actions can cause the uneasiness of women.
The sad reality is that for many women, leaving the house is a danger in itself. It is a constant obstacle course that requires a high level of hypervigilance.
What is particularly troublesome is that our girls and young women seem to be the most under attack. When this occurs, it is the future and the stability of our nation that is under attack.
These women are future contributors to all areas of our society. However, they are unable to fulfil their true potential due to the fact that they are being assaulted, dehumanised, and killed. It is even sadder that society continues to make excuses for perpetrators by inquiring about the victim. “What was she wearing?”; “Why was she out so late?”; “Why was she travelling by herself?”
When we get into the practice of victim blaming, we stray from the real questions that need to be asked. The dialogue and inquiry should instead be: “What was the attacker thinking?”; “Who are his friends?”; “Why did he feel so comfortable to do this?”; “How was he so easily able to assault, kill and/or rip the dignity of a woman/girl apart?”
I do agree that safety is everyone’s priority and that we should all take precautions in the carrying out of our everyday duties, but the real task at hand here is the reeducation of a society and the challenging of systems that propagate male dominance and toxic masculinities.
In simpler terms, we need to begin a dialogue about educating our boys and men about the importance of basic principles that are at the core of human social justice.
A big part of this is teaching them respect for our women. This should be done without having to draw a comparison to their aunts, mothers, or sisters. Every woman deserves respect but more importantly everyone deserves the right to feel safe in their home and country.
When our women are under attack, the fabric and essence of our society are under attack. One suggestion is to introduce a course within the school curriculum about respect and boundaries. The way that our society will think tomorrow is based on what they learn today. Let the next generation be equipped with the tools to fight against the dangers and issues that continue to exist in our society.
We see that many injustices have occurred in the last month in Trinidad and Tobago. From the sexual assault of minors to the murder of Ashanti Riley. It is time for us to wake up as a nation. Our society is suffering and is being stifled. Our people are bleeding red in the streets. It is not enough for us to say, “Protect our women”. It is not as simple as this.
In order to protect our women, we need to educate our men. We need to uproot the weeds that continue to poison our soils.
Our picong and joke culture also adds pressure to an already very volatile situation. Some may see catcalling as something ‘funny’, but these ‘simple actions’ continue to perpetuate a culture of assault.
Unwanted sexual advances at any level, whether verbal or physical, affects us all. It erodes respect, it causes fear and makes women unsafe.
So, for the men who truly want to protect our women, educate yourself, read more, understand more, ask your female friends and family what makes them uncomfortable and what you can do to better understand and respect their values.
Beyond this, however, I think it is important that we as men ‘pull up we bredrins’. We as men, should be the first to correct another man when he is crossing the boundaries of a woman and when he is doing something wrong. We are all responsible for the promotion of respect and we must always be ready to stand against abuse.
Let us work towards developing stronger policies and legislations and let us improve our protective systems.
Additionally, politicians need to be held accountable for what they say and do in public discourse. We need to do better as a people. It is time to stop putting Band-Aids on our nation’s wounds and begin the process of stitching it back together.
Darrion Narine is the Programme Coordinator for the Catholic Commission for Social Justice/Archdiocesan Ministry for Migrants and Refugees.