By Shermain Bique-Charles
The longstanding scourge of violence against women in Antigua and Barbuda is continuing to come to the fore, following last weekend’s brutal killing of 25-year-old Neltha Telemaque.
Leader of the United Progressive Party (UPP) Harold Lovell told Observer yesterday that the issue should no longer be considered as one for the government to deal with.
Instead, he said, the entire society should help curb violence, especially against women.
“It is a problem, not just for a party, the government or the police. It’s a problem for the society and the society must show and demonstrate that it has no place there. We in society need to reject it,” Lovell said.
He said the Antiguan and Barbuda people cannot sit idly by and accept brutal killings of the country’s women as “just another one of these things”.
“The question about violence against women should not and cannot be tolerated, and this is a message every one of us should carry,” he added.
Meanwhile, Wayne Marsh, an Antiguan and Barbudan attorney living in New York, said the country’s latest killing speaks to a breakdown in values.
“The amount of respect we place on a woman’s right to choose, a woman’s right to self-determination, is grossly lacking in society these days,” he said.
Marsh, who practices family law, said some leaders are to be blamed in part for the mentality of some men towards women.
He said many times, those in office have been known to speak about women in derogatory terms.
“I think we need to look at men in positions of power and how they speak about women and the kind of things they say to cause persons to believe a woman’s life is not valuable,” he added.
The attorney said the justice system must also be examined because, according to him, often the law fails victims of violence.
“We have to examine the way the justice system responds to incidents where women’s lives are taken from them. We need to examine the sentencing, how we dispense justice, the timing it is brought to bear,” he said.
“Once we can appreciate that a woman’s life is valuable, that each woman who dies at the hands of a man is potentially your mother, my mother, your aunt, your sister, then perhaps we will learn to value the life of a woman,” he added.
Telemaque’s body was found by a livestock farmer on Sunday in the vicinity of the Burma quarry. Police say multiple wounds were visible about her body. No one had been charged for her death up to press time.
In late November, 40-year-old Customs officer Zorina Benjamin was reportedly shot in the head and police have since charged her boyfriend with murder.
The deaths of the two women have taken Antigua and Barbuda’s murder toll to 14 this year.