Two women who lived on opposite ends of Trinidad have in common the brutal circumstances of their deaths.
Reshma Kanchan is the second young mother to be hacked to death this month. Her murder comes 27 days after the slaughter of Laventille mother Sherian Huggins. They are the latest fatalities in the epidemic of domestic violence which has not loosened its grip on this country, not even amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
For T&T, 2020 will not only be defined by the effects of the coronavirus but by the slaughter of women, occurring at an alarming rate even in the face of tougher legislative and law enforcement measures.
The T&T Police Service (TTPS) launched its new Gender-based Violence Unit (GBVU) on January 21 and the Domestic Violence (Amendment) Bill, 2020, took effect on July 7.
Still, these and other efforts to make this country safer for women and girls are yet to yield any measurable results.
Ms Kanchan and Ms Huggins died because it was so easy for their killers to stalk and brutalise them. That is because this is a society where domestic violence and other forms of gender-based violence are accepted or tolerated as “normal.”
In T&T, the murders of women in their homes or in public places are not isolated incidents and the epidemic seems to be getting worse, even with more resources invested in programmes to protect the victims.
It is important to focus on the safety of victims, but while we do that too many perpetrators are getting away. It is too late for interventions when murders, often followed by suicides, are committed.
It is time to look at the growing body of evidence about what works to manage or change perpetrators’ behaviour. The objective should be to develop a system where every perpetrator is effectively challenged.
For too many years, domestic violence has been at epidemic levels in this country, cutting across cultural, religious and socio-economic lines, destroying lives, tearing apart families. This scourge must be responded to as a matter of urgency.
The onus is on every law-abiding citizen to adopt a zero-tolerance stance on domestic violence. That means never excusing a violent or abusive act, no matter the provocation. There is no excuse for murder, or family violence
Domestic violence is complex and evil. Unfortunately, too many people choose to ignore the precursors to, or evidence of, violent behaviour.
In the case of Ms Kanchan, she was stalked, threatened and brutalised for quite some time before her abuser finally took her life. There were many warning signs but there was no one to rescue the young mother of two when she was ambushed a short distance from her home.
More of us must do our part to prevent domestic violence by being aware and proactive.
Don’t just look on from a distance or look away. Say something, do something. Call out disrespectful language and behaviour – when it is safe to do so – or call for help.
It’s time to save our women.