Dear Editor – ʺBe gracious to me, O God, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from griefʺ—can be heard as the voice of an abused woman. (Psalm 31).
Last Friday, 25 November 2016, was marked as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and styled White Ribbon Day in the Solomon Islands.
The occasion saw many women and girls marching through Honiara and supported by a number of businesses and co-ordinated by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry working with the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation (IFC).
The march had been preceded in a local newspaper article written by Mr. Quinton Devlin the Special Coordinator to the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI).
Mr. Devlin outlined what has, unfortunately, been the situation in the Solomon Islands for many years when he said studies showed about two in every three women in the Solomons have experienced physical or sexual violence from a partner and that the first sexual experience for more than one in three Solomons’ women was forced or coerced.
He added in his article,“Solomon Islands has a very low crime rate by global standards, but family violence, mostly against women and girls, out-numbers and out-ranks all other crimes committed in the country.”
Much money has been injected, over numerous years, by UN agencies and other UN affiliated internal bodies into trying to solve, or at least try and ameliorate, the problem of domestic violence at home and legislation has been promulgated designed to protect victims.
It seems from all accounts of the unabated incidences of domestic and family violence that victims are still reluctant to seek assistance, either because of likely reprisals or because they remain unaware of protections available to them.
Perhaps it is the case that when a woman has a problem in the family with domestic violence she cannot talk about it.
She might have a child and is afraid of the consequences of reporting incidences of violence for the sake of the child.
It is quite clear that the role played by gender inequalities and traditional values that celebrate male dominance are issues of importance to be considered in the overall study of domestic violence in the Solomon Islands in particular.
In a recent UN report that I saw, written by a co-author by the name of James Lang, it read, “What is allowing for men’s violence to continue is these ways that we are taught to be men – that are associated with dominance over women – like the idea that we as men are entitled to control women and their bodies – men viewing sexuality and their entitlement to women as sexual objects.”.
The same UN report quoted, “domestic violence affected all socio-economic groups.”
The U.N. indicated violence may rise among men who have less power compared to other men, or face stresses due to substance abuse and poverty.
Do alcohol, substance abuse and poverty therefore have a bearing on the spate of domestic violence incidences in the Solomon Islands?
In relation to the excessive consumption of alcohol, including binge drinking of kwaso, I am convinced that it does.
In Honiara there is the Christian Care Centre (CCC) run by devoted Sisters who demonstrate by their caring the valuable function of the church in support, inspiration and material welfare for battered women.
If we look at the Psalms, in particular, Psalm 31, it reads – —ʺBe gracious to me, O God, for I am in distress; my eye wastes away from griefʺ—can be heard as the voice of an abused woman. Also in Psalm 32 one reads – While I kept my silence, my body wasted away.”
Church teaching can, therefore, serve as a resource for victims and abusers but also serve in support as inspiration and encouragement to those seeking to end violence in their families.
I would encourage and hope that our churches and Christian institutions in the Solomon Islands would speak more from the pulpit in order to lend the kind of inspiration and encouragement I have outlined in the preceding paragraph.
I would hope, too, that extra resources can be found to police and curtail the manufacture and consumption of illegally brewed kwaso, as well as strengthening the law on unauthorized and excessive consumption of alcohol.