The tragic circumstances surrounding the kidnapping and murder of Andrea Bharatt have highlighted the sensitivity of our society to a number of issues.
And while our attitudes toward the worth of women, the pursuit of justice, crime and punishment, and skepticism of authority are by no means monolithic, the rhetoric surrounding this event has been revealing in its crudeness and anger. . Total frustration seems to float in the air and, to me, it’s refreshing because it means we are still feeling.
We are united in our outrage and there seems to be a real feeling that something needs to be done for real this time. This solidarity is inspiring.
At the same time, this raw anger revealed in us an ugliness and bitterness that I find it hard to contend with. I want to comment on that, but will this focus on the suspicious deaths of Andrew Morris and Joel Belcon dishonoring Andrea’s memory?
The line is thin before a call for justice turns into a thirst for revenge. But on the other hand, will tempering righteous anger create apathy and dull the momentum for change?
Maybe now is not the time to think about such things. Or maybe I’m afraid of being unnecessarily targeted by our country’s Top Trolls–uh, i mean Top Cop.
Whatever the reason, I decided to focus my energies instead on seeing where I can positively contribute to potential solutions to the problem of gender-based violence (GBV).
One achievable short-term solution that seems to have gained ground among the population, regardless of one’s ideological orientation, is the legalization of civilians’ access to pepper spray. By no means a quick fix, but a common sense measure that seems simple enough.
The constant advocacy of civilian groups across the political spectrum has resulted in an expedited Cabinet review of this measure and a commitment from Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley that regulations for its use and sale would be drafted with haste. Score one for democracy and the power of the people to put politicians to work!
However, it remains to be seen what these regulations entail, and what will be the true measure of the policy’s effectiveness.
A constant theme of my writings has been that our political class lacks imagination and their policies are copied and pasted from other jurisdictions, without giving too much thought to adapting them to our local cultural context or maximizing their potential to resolve our issues. problems holistically.
I fear this will also be the fate of our pepper spray ambitions, resulting in a well-intentioned but ultimately ineffective policy measure. the best. Or, at worst, make our public domain even more dangerous and hostile to the most vulnerable.
As such, here are some humble suggestions the ‘gods of parliament’ should consider when approving regulations for its use. As always, constructive criticism of these ideas is more than welcome.
Pepper spray is a curious case. If we were to regulate it as strictly as the legal gun industry says, it will never fall into the hands of the people who need it most.
Too many hoops to go through; an onerous and costly bureaucratic process inaccessible to the ordinary traveler Jane Doe. Making the regulations too lax however and, combined with our capacity for corruption, access to this potentially deadly but inexpensive self-defense tool becomes a potential scrum.
Beyond hardened criminals, frankly, it may be a bad idea for some of the common citizens “happy triggers” among us to have this device – and, more than likely, those same people would be on the front lines.
So how do we resolve this dilemma of prioritizing the most vulnerable and prey among us, while keeping it out of everyone’s reach?
Well, what I see here is a unique opportunity to move beyond mamaguy and empty gestures of sympathy, and empower women in a meaningful way. In short, the sale and regulation of pepper sprays should be restricted to women.
All of a sudden, you halve your pool of potential candidates, but more importantly, you still capture the majority of citizens who really need this intervention the most. All through a simple initial screening process — the eye test, in essence — which does not add any additional bureaucratic burden.
Of course, women should not be allowed to wear pepper sprays because of their gender alone. But nowhere is the self-defense training required to properly administer pepper spray as rigorous as that for the safe use of a firearm.
Here again, this is an opportunity for our interventions to be specific and targeted. Youth and community centers across the country are currently equipped with gymnastic spaces thanks to a loan from the IDB.
I am sure that between our police and defense forces we can assemble an adequate pool of trainers. Why not have targeted training programs in each community?
Again, these classes will be open to women only. Only after successfully completing the course and gaining certification will anyone be granted a license to purchase and transport pepper spray.
Imagine the enthusiasm you will generate in our sisters knowing that the government has designed a program specifically for their protection, which will help level the playing field somewhat between the sexes.
Perhaps the sale of pepper spray can also be facilitated by the police services themselves, which will be an extremely useful additional source of income. All pepper sprays sold may have a unique identifier recorded for a known person in the police database.
An army of women from all walks of life will no longer be the lowest fruit when a criminal considers his next target.
So how do we keep pepper spray out of men’s hands under this new regime?
Criminal record or not, the penalty for a man in possession of this device must be severe. Perhaps, at the discretion of the magistrate, a maximum penalty may be as severe as that for possession of an illegal firearm.
The message should be clear: we men have nothing to do with pepper spray. If it’s late at night and you fear for your life, travel with a woman to protect yourself!
At the same time, women should remember that permission to wear pepper spray is a privilege. If your pepper spray is lost or stolen, it should be reported immediately, and depending on the circumstances of the case, upon further investigation, your license may be revoked or worse.
The system described above is by no means perfect. But I think this maximizes the potential benefit of introducing this measure to society, while minimizing the potential risks.
Just because it has never been done like this elsewhere does not mean that it automatically disqualifies an idea or that the approach is inherently flawed. Let’s do something for ourselves for once, and let’s do it right.