An Open Let­ter to Yana Au­guste - A Vic­tim of Gen­der-Based Vi­o­lence

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By

Feli­cia Browne

Dear­est Yana, This is my first open let­ter and some of the most per­sonal feel­ings I have ever ex­pressed in writ­ing. Your death caused me deep de­spair and grief, as have so many bru­tal as­saults on other young women in the past. Though I have never met you, many peo­ple have ex­pressed their love and ad­mi­ra­tion for you. I want you to know that many of us will keep fight­ing for the rights that your mur­der­ers so vi­ciously vi­o­lated. While it is a tragedy that we were un­able to help you, there is hope for other girls and women who con­tinue to face sim­i­lar dan­gers of vi­o­lence. Vi­o­lence against fe­males of all ages is an epi­demic; and any cul­tural be­liefs which con­tinue to pro­mote and en­cour­age this vi­o­lence must be chal­lenged and ef­fec­tive mea­sures taken to pre­vent fur­ther as­saults and deaths from oc­cur­ring.

Many of us were shocked by the video which cir­cu­lated through­out so­cial media and par­tic­u­larly dis­turbed by lo­cal media’s overt sex­u­al­iza­tion of your “semi-nude body”. Tragic photos and video of your life­less body were ex­posed for the en­tire world to see. The act of vi­o­lence against your per­son was sadis­tic in both na­ture and form. It pro­jected a mes­sage of warn­ing to other women and girls as to just how frag­ile our bod­ies can be when as­saulted by vi­o­lence. The fact that these photos and video went vi­ral with such pe­jo­ra­tive com­men­tary is an alarm­ing re­flec­tion of the in­cred­i­bly low value and re­spect given to women’s bod­ies.

The media re­ported the al­leged in­ci­dent as an “ac­ci­dent”, yet media re­port­ing of ac­ci­dents does not typ­i­cally in­clude such de­tailed ac­counts of the phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance of the vic­tim, male or fe­male. I was thus not ter­ri­bly sur­prised when com­ments re­gard­ing your sex­ual pref­er­ences and sex­ual ac­tiv­ity be­came the fo­cal point of most dis­cus­sions on var­i­ous in­ter­net and public fo­rums. It is re­gret­table that your death served as the stim­u­lus for de­bates about ac­cept­able sex­ual prac­tices (for women specif­i­cally) in­stead of the need and meth­ods for pre­vent­ing vi­o­lence against women in all its forms. I am truly sorry that the na­ture of your death did not sig­nal a loud wake-up call to the re­spon­si­ble hu­man rights agen­cies to take ac­tion or to the public to re­flect more deeply on the rights of women and chil­dren to live free from vi­o­lence.

Un­for­tu­nately, it is nei­ther well-known nor ac­knowl­edged that vi­o­lence is the num­ber one cause of death for women in the world. The Jour­nal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery stated in 1991 that “vi­o­lence was the sec­ond most com­mon cause of in­jury over­all and the most com­mon cause of in­jury of women aged 15-44 years old, – above can­cer, car ac­ci­dents, war and malaria. The World Bank re­ports that up to 70 per cent of women ex­pe­ri­ence vi­o­lence in their life­time and that, “Ev­ery year mil­lions of women and girls world­wide suf­fer vi­o­lence, be it do­mes­tic vi­o­lence, rape, fe­male gen­i­tal mu­ti­la­tion/ cut­ting, dowry-re­lated killing, traf­fick­ing, sex­ual vi­o­lence in con­flict-re­lated sit­u­a­tions or other man­i­fes­ta­tions of abuse.”

Vi­o­lence against women takes many forms – phys­i­cal, sex­ual, psy­cho­log­i­cal and eco­nomic. These forms of vi­o­lence are in­ter­re­lated and af­fect fe­males from be­fore birth to old age. Women and girls who ex­pe­ri­ence vi­o­lence can suf­fer from di­min­ished abil­ity to par­tic­i­pate in public life. Thus, vi­o­lence against women not only harms in­di­vid­ual women, it harms fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties across gen­er­a­tions and re­in­forces other vi­o­lence preva­lent in so­ci­ety. Vi­o­lence against women not only im­pov­er­ishes women, it im­pov­er­ishes their fam­i­lies, their com­mu­ni­ties and their na­tions.

Many of us have ad­vo­cated for the rights of women and girls to be up­held but we con­tinue to be dis­missed as pro­mot­ing fem­i­nist views rather than hu­man­is­tic ones. The time has come to ad­dress the root of vi­o­lence against women, which is per­sis­tent in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized dis­crim­i­na­tion against women and girls, as sep­a­rate from hu­man be­ings.

Ev­ery time a fe­male vic­tim dies from vi­o­lence, we read about it, com­ment on it, and par­tic­i­pate in public demon­stra­tions. But in our pri­vate re­flec­tions, we all share a com­mon fear – that it might have been us or those whom we love. May you rest in per­fect peace dear Yana, and all of our beloved sis­ters, daugh­ters, friends, nieces, aunts and moth­ers whom you have now joined in death as a vic­tim of vi­o­lence.

Yana Au­guste

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.