THE EDITOR: At this time when the trumpet call against gender-based violence is at its loudest ever, let’s take a hypothetical case.
A woman finds herself alone and vulnerable – somewhere. This by misguided choice or force of circumstances. Someone sees her. He is no full-blown predator. She seems attractive and sexy and he seizes the opportunity, succumbing to an otherwise subdued instinct which such opportunity allows him to indulge in with impunity, more so as an inept policing system will allow him to. He knows it’s hardly likely that he would be caught and prosecuted.
But then she is seen by the real sexual predator. Now, there is no mere response to opportunity, any conscience call or rationalising as the first. Its simply an uncontrollable predatorial instinct, spawned and continuing to fester out of a home without means, without a positive value system, racked by domestic violence, with an emerging mentality so warped as not to see the value of learning or godliness or in positive peer relationships, his world the world of the bully, the thug, the drug pusher devoid of what it takes to be human, one in which, consequentially, a woman becomes fodder to be used, abused and discarded.
Such is what Andrea Bharatt and Ashanti Riley would have had to face and I could still hear their plaintive cry for mercy. But would their helpless pleas have made any difference? Hardly! Their cries would have fallen on ears that could not hear, far less listen, for the humanity that would have enabled him to listen had long been lost.
The voices for Bharatt and Riley are louder than ever now but are they simply blowing in the wind? Perhaps they will bring greater awareness of the rights of women in a general sort of a way, but the specific problem, a change of heart in the predator, is unlikely for his mindset is the product of years of exposure to values antithetical to that which make us human.
An appeal to his humanity is like sowing seeds on stony ground, for there is nothing there to receive it, to nurture it. Just look to the allegations of double rape by a taxi driver in Carapo, or the bludgeoning to death of the woman in Princes Town, or, just Tuesday, the stabbing death of the mother in Embacadere, in front of her two children, even amidst the louder than ever trumpet calls against gender-based violence.
For the future the course is clear:
* Good as the reformatory zeal for the predator is, our focus must be on rooting out this evil from among us by all means of the law available. Structures must be put in place to make the police appreciate their important role in truly serving through effective apprehension and prosecution.
* With the present generation of predators virtually lost, we must now direct our efforts to the youth of the future, hoping – through our institutions, beginning with the home, through the school and religious institutions, through positive social interaction – that making intelligent, humane choices becomes their own personal, individual culture. So that on seeing the Bharatts and the Rileys of this world, the natural reaction would be to love, admire and respect them, even at a distance, instead of snuffing out their lives and dumping them over an isolated cliff or in lonely stream somewhere deep in the forest.
DR ERROL N BENJAMIN