I’m not in your choice of men.

You have a responsibility to determine who you associate with and to know when to get out and the State will try to help.” This comment by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during his ‘Conversations with the Prime Minister’ forum on Monday in Maloney, caused a tidal wave of condemnation and outrage among the nation’s women, many of whom took to social media and via press releases (from advocacy groups) demanding a full apology from the prime minister for comments deemed as victim shaming and victim blaming.

Rowley’s response, in a press release last night, was unequivocally unapologetic and in fact stated he sought to “empower” women to make “smart” choices.

A release from the Office of the Prime Minister said Rowley’s remarks were misinterpreted by some groups which claimed he blamed the victim for the heinous incident on Sunday at MovieTowne, when Jamilla De Revenenaux’s throat was slit.

“The Prime Minister was conversing with the people and his statement has been taken out of context. He categorically rejects this interpretation of his statement,” the release stated.“ The Prime Minister, being a father and grandfather and understanding the importance of the association we keep and our personal well-being offered further empowering advice to our women, by advising women that, ‘you have the responsibility to determine who you associate with and know when to get out’. The Prime Minister wants women to be empowered to make smart choices.

The Prime Minister does not blame the victims of domestic violence but rather sympathises with the victims and the families of both the victims and the perpetrators.” The statement urged domestic violence victims to call a help-line,

STATE HAS A DUTY Head of the Institute for Gender and Development Studies at the University of the West Indies Dr Gabrielle Hosein said emphatically that it is not women but men and the State, who have a responsibility for male violence. “Women have no responsibility for male violence.

Men’s violence is entirely their choice and occurs in situations where they are exercising control, and in a wider context where male superiority is considered ‘natural’. This all leads to an invisibility around male violence except when it becomes severe,” Hosein said.

Women, she said, do not seek a relationship with an abusive man. “Abuse develops over the course of a relationship when certain factors come into play such as a pregnancy, when women get their own jobs and the man loses his. Abuse and its severity tend to develop over time,” she said.

“It is therefore not an individual issue but a societal issue, a public health issue and a citizenship issue. Greater vulnerability to violence defines women in TT,” she said, adding that the State’s response to violence against women has never been adequate at the level of policing, social services, the court system, and anti gender- based violence training in schools. “The protection order system needs to be completely revamped, as it is not working in women’s interests,” Hosein insisted. (See Page 5A)

WOMANTRA, AMEEN ROAR Gender advocacy group Womantra yesterday demanded that Rowley take responsibility for the damage “he caused to the integrity of his office.” The group demanded that he apologise for his “terrible lack of judgement and faulty reasoning” behind the comment.

“Women are not killed because they have made a bad choice in men but because their lives are not valued as much as male aggression is and the ownership of female bodies is. We are watching closely and await your response,” Womantra said in a release.

For her part, Opposition Senator and UNC Chairman Khadija Ameen said Rowley’s statement reeked of ‘machoism’ and was reckless and insensitive.

Ameen, who spoke during yesterday’s sitting of the Senate, reminded Rowley that former Port-of-Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee was forced to resign after blaming women for crimes committed against them over the way they dressed. This after Japanese pan player Asami Nagakiya was murdered during Carnival 2016.

Ameen said in the same way Tim Kee’s statement was unacceptable, Rowley’s, “is totally unacceptable because this is the same type of thinking that says victims of rape are responsible for the rape.” Declaring that Rowley lacks understanding on the issues of victim shaming and victim blaming, Ameen called on him to, “do us one favour.

Google ‘victim shaming’.

Google ‘victim blaming’. Have a read and then come back to us.” Ameen said that as a father of two daughters, she is calling on Rowley, “to examine the psychological effects of violence against women and look at violence in our nation from a different approach...for the sake of this country.” Repeated attempts by Newsday to contact Camille Robinson-Regis, chairman of the PNM’s Women’s League, for a comment on Rowley’s statement proved futile.

SOCIAL MEDIA ABUZZ Meanwhile, many ordinary citizens yesterday used social media to express anger over what they described as “insensitive” statements by Rowley.

One man said, “When a man meets a woman in the beginning, he acts well-behaved and puts up a very decent front and is only after he wins her love and gets comfortable, is when he start to show who he really is.” The man added that Rowley should have talked about providing women with access to legal representation, promoting gender equality in schools, bringing greater attention to violence against women and giving free self defence or martial arts courses to women. Another man opined on social media that the prime minister humiliated all female victims of domestic violence. “Rowley your speech is sending the wrong message to abusive men and also to victims,” the man said.

(Additional reporting by Darcel Choy and Sean Dougla



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