Counting Crime, Discounting Women

Let’s begin with a little Caribbean feminist history: Schoolgirls in uniform in St. Vincent and the Grenadines took to the streets in 1985 to protest the murder of one of their colleagues.  The following year Barbadian women marched in the capital to protest against rape and the police (lack of )response.  They marched despite being denied police permission to march initially and being accused by the then Deputy Commissioner of Police of making public nuisances of themselves. Just last month, hotel workers in Jamaica marched against domestic violence. Go back or forward in the historical record and there is overwhelming evidence of Caribbean women struggling against every injustice meted out to them.

Women have spoken up, out and against violence.

Yet the specific gendered harms which women face are often trivialized or dismissed. In Barbados, like everywhere else in the Caribbean, people are panicked about increased crime.  We were reassured via press conference recently that there is no  crime wave in Barbados since of the 22 murders so far for the year half of them were “domestic”.  Let me do the math for you: 22 murders minus 11 “domestic” violence murders =11 real murders= no crime wave.

What to do to ensure that it would not even be thinkable for a high-ranking public servant to even suggest that the murder of women by their intimate partners is not real crime?

Is it that we believe that women count for nothing so the murder of women can be discounted as real crime? Or that intimate partner violence is considered private (even when it takes place in the most public of places), acceptable and unavoidable?

A friend messaged me last night to say she was concerned about sexual violence and murders of women in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and felt that something should be done to address it.

Abeni of St. Vincent and the Grenadines of the And Still I Rise blog also expressed frustration with the murder of women and the victim-blaming and shaming public discourse which follows:

Another day and news of yet another female homicide assaults the airwaves. Only 25 years old, her neck slashed by her lover. Murder #18 they say. Somehow I find it hard to believe.

I listen and a weariness fills my soul. Tired of saying the same old things. Tired of reading the many inane comments that populate the social networks like Facebook. Sickened by the pictures of the deceased lying in her life’s blood making the email rounds. 

So my question to you is the same one my Vincy friend asked of me, what to do?