Violence Against Women in the Indo-Trinidadian Community

Violence Against Women in the Indo-Trinidadian Community

“Why is violence against women so prevalent in the Indo-Trini community?”

This was one of the questions I received after posting about the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. 

If I’m being really honest it’s a question I’ve often wondered about myself because gender-based violence has been a part of my life since childhood.

Every generation of women in my family has been impacted by violence. And while Indo-Trinidadian spirituality celebrates and elevates women, the alarming rates of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) within the community cannot be ignored.

In the post below, three factors which contribute to GBV within the Indo-Trinidadian community are outlined. As with many other social issues, GBV intersects with other socio-economic issues. My own experience has taught me that poverty and alcohol addiction are other factors which contribute to violence against women. But the three points discussed are highlighted because they transcend class concerns.

3 Reasons Why Violence Against Women is so Prevalent in the Indo-Trinidadian Community

1. History of Indentureship

During the initial period of indentureship the ratio of workers was 3 women to 100 men. That rate gradually went up to 4 women to 10 men but this continued gender imbalance (for various reasons) led to alarming rates of GBV. 

Indentureship also normalized oppression. Being passive became a survival mechanism in a seemingly hopeless situation because resistance often led to further violence/oppression.

2. Cultural Attitudes of Silence

There is a pervasive belief that conflict, including abuse, is “a husband and wife issue” which results in family and community members ignoring abuse or encouraging silence.

The shame surrounding divorce also contributes to this culture of silence. Divorced women become isolated from their communities while their husbands garner sympathy. The fear of losing the respect and support of their family and community contributes to this tradition of silence.

3. Patriarchal Social Structure

The abuse that many women endure is the result of the norms of male privilege that minimizes and justifies GBV. In many instances violence is viewed as a means to discipline an “unruly” wife/daughter/sister.

4 Ways We Can End Violence Against Women in the Indo-Trinidadian Community & Beyond

1. Define GBV as a wider social problem, not as an internal family problem.

In order to reject the culture of silence, all community members should be aware of the long and short term consequences of GBV on the society.

2. Invest in resources so that survivors have social and financial support.

Fear of isolation and financial dependency are two major reasons why women feel trapped in abusive relationships. Programs and resources created to alleviate these concerns will go a long way to ending GBV.

3. Community outreach to inform women of their options.

Programs and resources are not worth much if those who are in need remain unaware of them. Effective media campaigns and community outreach endeavours are essential components of ending GBV.

4. Educate men.

The current patterns of denial, minimizations and justifications for gender based violence can only be changed when men understand the long term impact of such violence. In addition to other forms of justice, abusers should be required to confront and change their role as perpetrators.

PM Dr. Keith Rowley is WRONG. Trickle-Down Economics Doesn’t Work.

Trickle-down economics doesn't work

About a month ago, on The Morning Brew talk-show, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley defended his “we must allow the rich to get richer” comment.

When pressed by the host to expand on his comment he said “If people have to be employed, somebody has to employ them; they don’t employ themselves and pay themselves…if there are rich people, meaning people who have money, and they want to put that money out there to do something with it, that automatically creates opportunities for other people.” (link here)

What the Prime Minister outlined is a theory of economics known as Trickle-Down Economics. Trickle-down economic theory suggests that if the rich gets richer the country’s wealth would eventually flow down to benefit middle- to low- income earners.

The problem is that while the theory seems to make sense, it’s actually been proven to have the opposite impact. 

A study published by the London School of Economics (LSE) which spans 50 years and 18 countries definitively proves that trickle-down economics doesn’t work. It’s actually shown to increase inequality. It also shows zero improvement in GDP per capita, unemployment rates and consumer spending.

What this means is that when governments allow the rich to get richer, they (the rich) hoard the country’s wealth. Trickle-down economics doesn’t make the rich hire more people or contribute to social services; it makes them invest in things which only benefits them.

The International Monetary Fund also rejects the trickle-down theory. In its report authored by five economists, it argues that “…increasing the income share of the poor and the middle class actually increases growth while a rising income share of the top 20 percent results in lower growth — that is, when the rich get richer, benefits do not trickle down.” The IMF’s fight against income inequality revolves around the fact that a healthy middle class is the main driver of the economy.

This makes sense if you think about it…

Let’s pretend you’re the owner of a chain of restaurants. What will incentivize you to higher more employees

1. if your taxes are lowered 

OR

2. If you have more customers in your restaurants

If your taxes are lowered but you have no customers, you have no real need to hire more employees so you will hold on to that extra income. But you will hire more employees if you have more customers.

Which is what the LSE study proves- social and economic incentives for the lower and middle class leads to a healthier economy.

Which brings us to the Alternative to Trickle-Down Economics…

It’s a theory which author Robert Reich refers to as Rise-Up economics. It shows that public investments in social services like hospitals, schools and infrastructure, and reducing taxes to the lower and middle classes are proven to grow the economy.

Rise-Up economics is also the theory on which Dr. Eric Williams and other leaders founded our country.

Although they referred to it as Pragmatic Socialism, it held the same emphasis on strengthening social services, reducing poverty and creating a strong middle class. As a reader of Eric Williams’ work, it’s been disappointing to see how far the party he founded has strayed from his ideals.

It is downright unconscionable that our Prime Minister would advocate for trickle-down economics right now. We all know that the Covid-19 pandemic and the accompanying economic recession has increased the wealth gap and pushed more people into poverty.

So why is the Prime Minister defending this debunked theory that the rich need to get richer?

Does he not know better? 

I don’t think so. 

He’s holding on to this belief because it’s a convenient hoax designed to further enrich his wealthy friends, financiers and their businesses. 

By now every Trinbagonian is aware of the power of wealthy individuals to shape political policies in their favor through personal and campaign contributions. It’s called corruption. And although many of us in Trinidad and Tobago have resigned ourselves to government corruption, we still have a responsibility to call it out.

It should be clear by now that an upward transfer of wealth is the last thing we need. At some point we need to find the courage to fight for what we deserve. I’m not sure when the country will be ready but I know I am. I sincerely hope you’ll join me.

If you’d like to read the full LSE study you can find it here.

And you can learn more about Robert Reich’s Rise-Up philosophy here.