Of course, male and female relationship issues predate offensive soca lyrics, bacchanal behaviour, social media and even Eve’s labour pains. Back in her time, she wasn’t only punished for life, having committed the “original” sin of disobedience, but every woman since then. She blamed Satan’s deceit and was punished to endure sorrow and pain in childbirth and her husband given power over her. As for Adam, he blamed Eve, who was created from his rib, for his sinful action, and depending on interpretation, that was, perhaps, the first case of psychological abuse. God was just. Adam, Eve, and Satan the serpent were banished from Eden, and men condemned to live by the sweat of their brow.
In religious doctrine, the status of a woman is ascribed primarily as the helper to her husband, giving birth to his children, looking after them, and being a dutiful and submissive wife, and he would take care of them. Laws, education and social structures have reinforced that patriarchal culture, which has profoundly influenced male/female relationships. It supports the beliefs that virtuousness is submissiveness and subordination, and that men have a (divine) right to hold power over women. Millions of women throughout the ages had vowed to obey their husbands. Although, some religious text speaks to equality and partnership. Yet, some men treat them as their property and feel so deeply about their subservience, they can’t reason beyond their fists to punish and control them. It’s a doctrine spanning human existence and underscores patriarchy, which is male power.
One may argue that patriarchy isn’t an overarching culprit, but it’s a significant factor distorted by mental illnesses. Power over women manifests in a variety of ways, but before we get there, let’s pause to reflect. There’s a gap in the treatment of women and men’s education and health issues. Since the sixties, international agencies and governments had recognised the critical roles of women in human and economic development and had focused on the education and health of girls and women as strategies to alleviate poverty and combat entrenched cultural attitudes toward the education of girls relative to boys. Great strides have been made in the education of girls, their reproductive health and overall wellbeing. It’s a long journey, but women are now outnumbering men in universities, outperforming them, rising to senior levels in the workplace including in previously male-dominated jobs, and increasingly becoming financially independent.
Equal emphasis hasn’t been placed on developmental and mental health issues of boys and men. They dominate school drop-out rates, unemployment, crime and participation in criminal gangs. One may well argue that men as the dominant players economically and politically, instead of being blindsided by hubris and power, they should be leading the charge to address the severe and endemic issues affecting males.
A warped sense of power combined with drugs and alcohol addiction—brain-eating marijuana, anger, narcissism, emotional pain, depression, pathological possessiveness, mental illnesses, ignorance, and domestic and intimate relationship problems, is deadly. Women die. Crime spirals. Violence against women happens across all socio-economic, ethnic, and religious groups.
We know why women don’t leave after the first slap: the children, lack of financial support, lack of empathy from friends and family, fear and nowhere to hide, love—she thinks he wouldn’t do it again, or he’ll change, and submissiveness. She’s in denial and trapped.
Provocation isn’t an excuse. Both parties provoke each other, but women are physically disadvantaged. There’s no excuse for brutish and deadly force against women. There are antecedents, learned behaviour, lifestyles, and the tendency to violence. Domestic and intimate-relationship violence doesn’t happen in isolation of overall crime. There are common threads. Whatever form it takes—physical, sexual, or psychological, it’s about using power to punish and control women.
Violence against women is not only a women’s issue. It’s not only about the victim. It’s about public health and safety and the fundamental right to life and liberty. It’s about education and social justice. It’s about the perpetrators. The police can’t stop domestic violence. As a matter of priority, a serious intervention is necessary on the mental health and education needs of boys and men. Initiatives to help and protect women will not be successful unless there are productive interventions in the lives of potential perpetrators of violence.