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Examining views on domestic violence

Monday, October 29, 2012
Left: Singer Rihanna who was beaten by Chris Brown when they were in a relationship says she has forgiven Brown. Right: Guyanese women’s rights groups have been protesting against the upcoming visit of Chris Brown.


It seems no matter how hard Chris Brown tries to move on in life, his past continues to haunt him. The 23-year-old singer whose latest album, Fortune has sold 303,600 copies worldwide, is making headlines again. But this time, not for any run-ins with the law.
Because of Brown’s felony assault charges and conviction in the beating of singer and then girlfriend Rihanna in 2009, his visit to Guyana is being vehemently criticised by women rights groups in the country where he is expected to perform in December. 
The singer/songwriter is billed to perform on Boxing night in the state’s capital, Georgetown and the Guyanese government has also come under fire as it is alleged they are partly responsible for financing the convicted domestic abuser's visit. According to reports, the Government, in a bid to promote tourism is spending a great deal of money on the singer whose criminal record forbids him to perform in countries like the UK.
The protesting groups have voiced their opinions on blogs, saying that allowing Brown to perform in the country sends the wrong message especially as the government does not finance existing programmes in the country geared towards fighting domestic violence and providing rehabilitation for ex-domestic abusers. 
Others recognise his ‘right’ to perform in Guyana but question the use of taxpayer’s dollars to support his performance and some activists have said his visit makes a mockery of an upcoming 16-day Activism Against Gender-based Violence campaign, especially since the concert coincides with the occasion.
However, fans who use the social networking site Twitter have taken to Brown’s fan page pledging their support to the singer, saying he deserves a second chance and he has already paid for his mistake. Brown was sentenced by a Los Angeles judge to probation of five years and community labour for six months for assaulting Rihanna. He was also ordered to stay away from his former for the next five years from the incident’s date. But Rihanna has since forgiven Brown and even confessed to TV show host Oprah Winfrey in a recent interview that he is the love of her life. 
The Barbadian songstress said she found the capacity to forgive Brown for the attack through finding the means to forgive her own father for the abuse he subjected her mother to. The two have even collaborated on a few songs including the popular Cake.
Recent reports that the couple are reuniting has prompted mixed reactions among fans of both celebrities.
There have been unconfirmed reports that Brown is also carded to visit Trinidad and Tobago before the year’s end. Are people in this country as concerned as those in Guyana about allowing him to perform here given his domestic violence conviction, or are they ready to forgive and forget?  The T&T Guardian took to the streets of Port-of Spain to get a view from the some younger members of the public. Stephen Andrews, Kristoff Alexander and Shakima Joseph all 20, and 16-year-old Celine Weeks were interviewed 
Three of them said that Brown has done his time for the crime he committed and has proven he has changed. They believe he deserves a second chance. However, Alexander who is not a Brown fan said because of the incident, Brown should not be celebrated in anyway. 
We also spoke with Gregory Sloane-Seale, former child rights activist with the Coalition Against Domestic Violence and co-ordinator of the Citizen Security Programme within the Ministry of National Security, as well as criminologist Renee Cummings. Sloane-Seale said it was not just about giving Brown a second chance. According to him, it is about watching what has transpired since the incident to date. He said from what he has read about Brown since the Rihanna incident, the performer seems to have shown remorse, attended the anger management sessions ordered by the court and continues to do his community service.  
“He is a young person, his presence can be a voice for hope and change among young people especially young men. You cannot condemn a person for life especially a young person for his infraction,” Sloane-Seale said. He added that it would have been wise for the Guyanese groups who are protesting to correspond with Brown’s management before his visit and organise for him speak about his experience and transformation during his visit to the country. “It is always sad for me when we throw the baby out with the bath water. No one is praising what he did but his actions were  already condemned, it was a moment that’s gone. We have to see how he goes on from here, support him and give him a chance to prove his change.”
Renee Cummings shared Sloane-Seale’s views. She said in domestic violence not all perpetrators have to continue being violent. She said the incident between Brown and Rihanna occurred at a time when they were very young, famous, rich and living on their own without guidance. For him to be continually labeled an abuser is wrong Cummings reasoned, as it only occurred once and he has since cleaned up his act. She said he has a criminal record because he was charged but the public has got to give him a chance to prove himself.
"In any relationship tempers flare — be it teenagers or adults and often we act out on the spur of the moment, realising after it could have been handled differently,” said Cummings."Yes he has a criminal record but does that mean the minute he lands in Guyana or Trinidad he is going to beat a woman," she rhetorically asked. Cummings said if they can organise to have him speak to young men about his experience and how it stigmatizes, that would be a bonus seeing that some of the activists' arguments are that the Government does not provide funding to sustain the domestic violence programmes needed to rehabilitate domestic abusers. "But to label the man an abuser out of the context of one incident which has not been repeated is definitely not the right or fair thing to do."
Local soca artistes also shared their views. Swappi said everybody has their own opinions about Brown but at the end of the day, apart from being an entertainer he is a human being. He said Brown has already been forgiven by the industry and has done his time.
His female counterpart Nadia Batson also felt people needed to get over what happened and allow Brown to grow positively. While she does not condone what happened, she feels Brown should not continue to be chastised for something he already paid for. 
"Because of what happened he is viewed as a woman beater, but this is not true. People make mistakes—no one is perfect. I just feel their are many other facets of Chris's life that can be focused on. People in this world are just too judgmental." she said.
Young singing sensation Erphaan Alves said Brown’s mistake will haunt him forever and that is just a fact he is going to have to learn to live with it. He said the only reason the issue keeps coming up is because of his role as an entertainer. "Everybody makes mistakes be it a president, mother, father or a plumber. When you are in the public’s eye it's just more difficult for you," said Alves. He continued: "He's is not the first artiste to have a criminal record and certainly won’t the first artiste to visit Trinidad with a record of any kind. Maybe the Guyanese government should have organized things better knowing the issues surrounding domestic violence in the country, but at the end of the day people cannot keep hating on Chris."
Megan Walrond, vocalist with the all-female band Sass said she understood the anguish of the women's rights groups in Guyana and that it is important for the Government to get financially involved in the rehabilitation of the perpetrators of domestic violence. But she also feels the people cannot make it a personal attack on Brown as he already served time for his actions. She said the word of God says we ought to forgive and that is what people need to do and move on because both Brown and Rihanna already have.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Immigration laws on people with convictions entering this country
According to Keith Sampson Deputy Chief Immigration Officer people with criminal records who attempt to enter Trinidad and Tobago may be refused entry under the provisions of sections 8(1)d or 8(1)q of Chapter 18:01— The Immigration Act of the Laws of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. He said under both sections, the first (8(1)d) states that entry is prohibited to people who have been convicted of or admit having committed any crime, which if committed in Trinidad and Tobago would be punishable with imprisonment for one or more years. The latter (8(1)q) states any person who from information or advice which in the opinion of the Minister is reliable information or advice is likely to be an undesirable inhabitant of, or visitor to Trinidad and Tobago. 




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