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OPINION: Women have rights in Guyana, they are not what many may think

Last Updated on Sunday, 23 July 2023, 8:45 by Denis Chabrol

by GHK Lall

Women have rights in Guyana.  In the view of some men in this country women have a right to the kitchen, women have a right to the bedchamber, and women have a right to the maternity ward.  The old American term was “barefoot and pregnant.”  Thinking of what has unfolded recently, and before, the politically powerful, the rich and the connected also, all believe that women’s rights should be limited to being submissive and passive.  Take whatever brutality is dished out, and count self as lucky.  Accept whatever abuse and abomination happen to be the norm, and absorb those as part of a culture that is part machismo, plenty political, and with lots of the financials thrown in to make matters work, or come out a certain way.  This is the abbreviated version of my take on the rights of women in Guyana, notwithstanding their parliamentary, judicial, and other public service, even commercial, elevations and successes.

My take on the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA) 2-page encyclopedia on women rights in Guyana is that it was a profound presentation of the facts and circumstances with which Guyanese women live, endure, somehow manage to survive.  It is in pieces sometimes.  Or, with their clothes stripped, their dignity shredded, and their standing in this society torn some more.  Sexual objectification is the fancy couple of words employed, and all should have the clearest idea of what they represent.  But, to denude the pretenses and the correctness, it is of sometimes discreet, other times unnuanced, optical ogling; it is of mental violation and rape.  What is called a ‘hostile environment.’  With some political reach, and a bag of money, all of those are either justified or found a carpet under which to take involuntary residence.

I think that the GHRA parted the kimono and gave all Guyanese a glimpse, a glimpse only, of the stark and searing reality of women in Guyana.  In another place, and one with unsparing standards, I would have asked about women powers-female ministers, top female public servants, senior female police officers, senior female judiciary officers, ranking female pastors, and other female luminaries in the domestic arena-and where they stand on what has been, and is, happening to their sisters, and what is likely to continue in clandestine form in this country.  Because this is Guyana, I have my considerable doubts about the authenticity of a great many of them, and none more than female ministers in the PPP Government.

Some women in Guyana may have cracked the glass ceiling, but in so doing they hit their darned heads so hard that they became glass eyed as a result.  If they do find it in themselves to open their mouths and sincerely speak their minds, their skirts flare like that of Marilyn Munroe standing coyly over that New York subway grill, with her slip (and whatever else was there, if anything), showing.  Those who should speak out do so in circular fashion, which is reminiscent of their male seniors.  The man from the Tradewinds did identify that in song, ‘as who deh pun tap.’  The recognition comes too quickly, and too smartly for the women who could have, and should, have been, of what is about real womanhood.  Meaning, how they have to cheapen themselves by holding their peace, or coming out with some oral piece, that besmirches women rights further, and enhance themselves some more before their male political controllers.

This is not about only Amerindian women, though they are the most vulnerable, the most exploited, as a matter of the right of Guyanese men with power or money.  This is about the rights of all Guyanese women, rich and poor, and those of the many high and deep shades of the national colorings, and how in this 21st century, they are still looked upon as prey.  As one of the prime spoils of political success.  As part of the intrinsic rights of the political leadership class.  As an element of the dues that women still owe to a male dominated, male-monied, and male-liberated Guyanese society.  This is how we reduce our women to the rank of animals, and not even noble ones.

In other countries, I know personally of senior corporate officers being fired for improper relationships, though they were clearly consensual, and with not a complaint lodged.  We all should recall, however hazily, of American Senator Gary Hart, and why his presidential hopes came to an ignominious halt: sexual escapade.  Former President Bill “Slick Willie” Clinton dodged a bullet when he abused his power, and then openly lied to cover his lapse involving an overwhelmed young girl.  Here, in high political circles, there is a wink and a nod, and knowing smile and smirk: boys will be boys, and the violation of the rights of women is almost a rite of passage.  It helps that, because the deck is so stacked against them, there is almost zero probability of any woman complaining.  And, even then, to what end will it peter out?

Women have rights in Guyana.  They just have to be careful about not exercising them in the wrong way.  To the GHRA, thanks for the magnum opus.

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July 2023