T&T can’t afford to forget the women whose lives have been snuffed out or the horrific circumstances of their deaths.
Abiola Cudjoe, 31, was murdered along with her 12-year-old son Levi at their home on Lachoos Road, Penal.
Ellen Trishana Mohammed, 25, was hacked to death at her home in Guayaguayare.
Sharsa David, 47, was killed by her common-law husband Kester Williams, who then shot himself at their Hibiscus Drive Extension, Edinburgh 500 home.
Omatie Ramdial-Deobarran, 36, was murdered by her schoolteacher husband Amar Deobarran, who then took his own life at their South Oropouche Trace, Barrackpore home.
The names of these women and the hundreds of others slaughtered over the years by their intimate partners are reminders of the failure of systems and institutions in this country that should have kept them safe.
On paper, there are sufficient measures for a robust response to gender-based violence. The Domestic Violence Act, which came into effect in August 1991 and was amended as recently as 2019, is intended to provide urgent protection to people who are being abused. Since early 2020, the T&T Police Service has also had a Gender-Based Violence Unit that focuses on domestic violence cases and breaches of restraining orders.
In addition, within the Office of the Prime Minister, there is a Gender and Child Affairs Unit responsible for designing, implementing and executing programmes to address domestic violence.
But what looks promising on paper is completely at odds with the horrifying reality of women being killed, even when they try to access the facilities that should provide safety.
Relatives of Ellen Trishana Mohammed, who was almost decapitated in a vicious cutlass attack on Wednesday, said they reported to the police that she was being abused by a man who had threatened to kill her. They claimed police responded only after she was killed.
Abiola Cudjoe and her son were killed days after she obtained a protection order against her abuser. She is among the more than 25 women killed since 2019 after they applied for a protection order.
The system has failed these women in the worst possible way. They were not safe in their homes—in all the cases cited above, that is where they were slaughtered—and the facilities that should have provided protection did not shield them from their murderers.
It is unacceptable that protection orders are not worth the paper they are written on, and a specialised law enforcement unit is so limited in its capacity to deal with perpetrators of abuse. If this crisis isn’t properly addressed, the country will continue to be buffeted by the negative effects of gender-based violence.
When women are killed by their abusers, they are just the most visible of the victims of that crime. There are those they leave behind in broken families, including orphaned children facing lifelong health and developmental problems.
All those despairing over the current state of the country, particularly the escalating levels of violence, should be concerned about the multiplier effect of this crisis. That includes Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, who described the crime situation as “unusually horrendous” when he spoke at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing.
It is not enough to express concern. It is time to own up to these failures and come up with viable solutions.