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Kamla: Defence bill will protect women
The Defence Bill which was passed in Parliament last week is in defence of women. This was the message from Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in an advertisement in Wednesday’s T&T Guardian. In the message, Persad-Bissessar said crime affected all citizens but affected mothers in a special way, since the loss of a child was one of the most painful experiences someone could feel.
It also said she was determined in her efforts to deal with the worrying crime situation, adding that there was “no point in having a defence force to defend us from external hostile attacks when internal hostile criminal elements threaten to devour our life.”
In response, co-ordinator of the Network of NGOs for the Advancement of Women Hazel Brown issued a statement yesterday saying while she supported Persad-Bissessar’s resolve to address criminal activity, she was not yet convinced that increased military power was the solution to gender-based violence. She insisted the national gender policy should be implemented immediately to “stop the anguish and distress experienced by mothers and women and to benefit the entire society.”
Brown said violence was a learned behaviour and until the authorities addressed the root of violence, T&T would find itself in needing more police, more soldiers and more jails. She called on the Cabinet to implement the 2012 draft gender policy to ensure that both men and women were afforded opportunities to develop their potential and enjoy their fundamental human rights.
Convenor of the Women Working for Social Progress (WorkingWomen) Jacquie Burgess said in a telephone interview yesterday she did not believe the Defence (Amendment) Bill would make much difference in the lives of women, since: “People have been losing their children for years and no piece of legislation has helped them.”
Burgess said the solution to the prevalence of crime was the improvement of the detection rate and the proper handling of children. She said: “If women and men are empowered to learn to live together with positive gender relations, we would not have need for army and police presence in such a way that everywhere you turn you see green and blue uniforms.”
The T&T Guardian also spoke to Dr Merle Hodge of WorkingWomen, a retired senior lecturer in the Department of Liberal Arts, Faculty of Humanities and Education at the University of the West Indies (UWI). In a telephone interview, Hodge said she agreed the pain of mothers who lost their children to crime was great. She said, however, more fundamental measures were needed to implemented to protect all members of society.
She referred to the decision to precept soldiers in the fight against crime as a “strong-armed and testosterone” solution to the issue of crime. Hodge said in order to protect all citizens, the Government needed to improve the detection rate of criminal acts and to deal with the major social issues which led citizens to resort to criminal activities. She said the Defence Bill was merely the Government’s adoption of “a bad-john attitude in response to bad-john activities.”
President of the San Fernando Business Association Daphne Bartlett said she supported this latest anti-crime initiative, since it would increase the workforce of citizens committed to limiting disorder and violence. She agreed it was “heart-wrenching” for a parent to lose a child, adding, “We have to start to see how we can manage our homes and how we can make sure that our children and other people’s children steer clear of a life of crime.”
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