High Court Judge Justice Frank Seepersad is calling for safety and support hubs to be set up in communities across the country to assist victims of domestic abuse.
Delivering a Christmas sermon at the St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Princes Town yesterday, Seepersad said the continued massacre of Trinidad and Tobago’s women, primarily at the hands of men, has to stop. He also called for a review of some aspects of religious doctrine related to female subjugation and male headship.
Referring to the recent murder of 18-year-old San Juan resident Ashanti Riley, Seepersad said her death was a reminder that “women continue to be brutally assaulted, maimed or murdered.” He noted that “the majority of these horrific crimes may have been committed by the misogynistic and misguided men.”
Saying there was a need to curb the violence running through T&T, Seepersad said, “Churches have to review the approach to gender-based violence. Women can’t be told to subjugate themselves to their husbands or to stay in dysfunctional relationships because marriage bonds are unbreakable,” he said.
He added, “Biblical literalism has to be replaced by an approach where we look for the broader intent and meaning of the scriptures. We must appreciate that doctrinal attitudes as to male headship can wire men into thinking that they can exercise dominance over women. As religious bodies, we have an obligation to emphasise that God does not condone domestic violence and that in his eyes there is gender equality, as men and women are fashioned in his image and likeness.”
Seepersad noted that if support and safety hubs are established in all communities, abused women can get help.
But he said the definition of masculinity has to change.
“Our men have to be taught to embrace their emotions. Our men need to understand that real men do cry, they do hurt and it’s okay to seek assistance when emotive issues entrap us. Mental health issues have to be addressed in the same manner as other health issues, devoid of discrimination or social stigma,” Seepersad said.
Change must also come from the educational system, he added.
“Our teachers need to be retooled so that they can have discussions about gender sensitivity, equality and respect as they usher our boys along a path which will lead them to mature into men of whom we can be proud,” he explained.
On a legislative level, Seepersad said laws also have to be revisited.
“Laws need to create an enabling environment for the empowerment of our nation’s women. Legislation has to bolstered so as to ensure that domestic violence perpetrators are held accountable and a no-tolerance approach to all gender-based violence,” he said.
“Mandatory domestic violence offender registers should be considered and the information contained should be accessible to the public so that persons can be made aware of potential threats.”
Seepersad said even within the homes, there should never be corporal punishment and inequity.“The complicit stance taken by relatives to protect perpetrators of violence so as to save face, has to be replaced by attitudes whereby victims are protected and perpetrators are made to account. Our boys have to be taught respect, love and empathy. The cat-calls and sooting has to be shut down and men need to be encouraged to treat women with dignity and respect,” Seepersad added.Most importantly, Seepersad said men need to return to God.
Noting that 2020 has been an exacting year, Seepersad said T&T must “motivate, remodel and refashion men so as to mitigate the mayhem.”
Saying that people must once again embrace God, Seepersad said citizens must emulate Christ and live a life of faith “which rejects divisiveness, hate and violence and embraces forgiveness, peace and love.”
He urged the congregation to reach out and intervene if women are being abused and to offer help to the abusive men.