Why are so many Bahamians ignoring the cries for help from those who are being emotionally, sexually, or physically abused? There may be several reasons – perhaps some people do not have emotional sensitivity toward those who are in pain; perhaps some people have been taught that issues between a man and a woman in a relationship are always a private matter, no matter how serious it is, and, hence, do not interfere; perhaps some have been so schooled about the submissive role of women in a relationship that they would naturally turn their heads when someone is in pain; perhaps some have lived in homes where shouting, screaming, beating and shaming are common, acceptable behaviors. Whatever the reason, it is not good and is proving not healthy for our nation.
Far too many people, especially women and children, are being used and abused in subtle and very obvious and direct ways, but we refuse to listen to their cries and we often turn our heads. It seems as though our society has become anesthetized toward the cries for help. I am not referring to institutions or organizations that govern or protect us. I am talking about the dysfunctional families; the socially and emotionally illiterate; the cold-hearted educated folks; the ill-informed spiritual leaders.
Perhaps a key reason many do not respond to the cries for help is that they really believe it is a private matter and acceptable. It is not surprising that even international organizations have noticed this about The Bahamas. At the invitation of the government, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Dubravka Šimonović, of the Human Rights Council, visited The Bahamas December 11-15, 2017, to examine what is happening in the country. Here’s what she said in her report. “Recently, The Bahamas has started to address violence against women, which is widespread, largely perceived as a private matter and accepted as normal. Deep-rooted patriarchal stereotypes regarding the superiority of men are adversely affecting women and girls. … The perceptions of men regarding violence in marriage are varied. It is felt, however, that more men than women perceive violence between married people as acceptable. This perception may be rooted in the tradition of the man as the head of the household and the perception of male and female roles within the family. … Neither the principle of equality between women and men nor the prohibition of sex-based discrimination, are enshrined in national legislation. A culture of acceptance interrelated with strong patriarchal gender norms is prevalent, which can lead to failures in the response of State entities.”
Is it saying that deep in our psyche is the belief that abuse, no matter how serious, is acceptable? This must change and change quickly. Here’s another point emphasized by United States President Jimmy Carter. In his book, “A Call to Action,” he addresses the suffering inflicted upon women by a false interpretation of carefully selected religious texts and a growing tolerance of violence and warfare. He writes, “Key verses are often omitted or quoted out of context by male religious leaders to exalt the status of men and exclude women. And in nations that accept or even glorify violence, this perceived inequality becomes the basis for abuse.”
In my 2018 article, titled, “Humility, Love, Pride, & the Nagging Good Wife”, I shared about the misuse of the word submit by men toward their partners. I wrote, “I’ve discovered that the request from a husband to his wife to be submissive or he complains about the words ‘You are not submissive enough’ is a sure sign that he is threatened by his wife’s assertiveness. … Usually, these men believe that they are the ones ‘in charge’ and the wife must ‘obey’ or at least do not question his points of view or ‘demands’. These men use the scriptures as a weapon to control and coerce their spouses. They love to quote Ephesians 5:22: ‘Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands …’ I pointed out that many do not know what was really the writer’s intention and what the word actually means. The Greek word found in Ephesians that is translated to ‘submit’ (hupotassomai – hoo-poh-TASS-oh-my) is a military word for a soldier who actually stands on the side of another soldier of his equal. It can also mean ‘to identify with’. In that culture, the wife was of no value. The Apostle Paul was elevating the wife to the side of her husband as his equal. ‘Wife, you are to identify yourself to your husband. … Stand beside him as his equal, not behind him like a servant.’”
Believe it or not, as stated earlier, the reason many men treat women as a threat toward their perceived power position is that they have been empowered by false teachings and traditions in our society that women are second-class citizens and are to be dominated by them.
Wake up, Bahamas! It is time to review our beliefs and practices. It would require, perhaps, a painful adjustment of our core beliefs, even those we wrongly teach from Holy Scripture about equality. It is also time to listen to the cries for help. Far too many women and children are hurting in the dark corners of the homes. They feel hopeless and powerless. Please, let us listen. Someone is crying near you today. Can you hear her? This is not a private matter.