Head of the fledgling Democratic Republic Party, Anesia Baptiste has decried the killing of her aunt, Sandra Browne, a mentally challenged woman who was raped and murdered then her house set on fire by an unknown assailant on Jan. 1.
Speaking at the peace rally held by the Human Rights Association in Clare Valley on Sunday, Baptiste, a former senator, said violence against, women, girls, elderly, and the disabled “disturbs our peace, as it were, in this country”
She was addressing the rally hours after attending Browne’s funeral.
“She was disabled. It is well reported that over the years she was sexually abused and then she lost her life under barbaric circumstances, where the perpetrator not only entered her home and demanded sex from her and then proceeded to attack her male companion, who refused, but he (assailant) also abused her and then set the house on fire.”
The intruder also chopped Browne’s mentally challenged male companion, 74-year-old Vulton Grant, who also suffered burns as a result of the fire, which destroyed their two-storey, concrete and wood house.
“We couldn’t even view aunty Sandra’s body today. And my poor mother has to live with what she saw, as in her remains,” Baptiste said.
“The incident highlights a serious problem we have in this country. There is not enough regard and respect for God-given or inalienable rights and freedom for all people among us,” Baptiste said.
“And, as a young woman political leader, I condemn what happened to Sandra, but not only what happened to Sandra, but what has happened to other women in our country, girls, young boys even, because a lot is hidden, a lot is in secret, but we talk about it but not enough publicly, whether it be incest rape, buggery of young boys, teenage pregnancy, sexual harassment, and all these other evils which disturb our peace.
“We talk about peace here tonight. So what are we going to about it?” the former New Democratic Party spokesperson on gender issues said.
“I would like to see more of our political leaders conversing about issue in a way to find solution to address the problem we are facing. Instead of spending the time spent — so often on radio especially — cursing out each other, why not address the horrors that we are facing in these areas and actually talk about solutions to the problems?
Baptiste said that her party, which was launched in 2012, recognises a need for education in the society about God-given rights and freedoms.
“Listen, if people cannot respect God enough to realise that their fellowmen have been created by him with certain inalienable rights and freedoms that they should not violate, then we are going to continue to have terrible violation of these rights and freedoms.
“If there is no sacred regard in the mind for the rights and freedoms of each other, then crime and violence are the result, and gruesome crimes as well,” she said.
She spoke of the importance of freedom of association and assembly, expression, conscience, and opinion.
“People fight just because a person disagree with another person. People don’t want to help one another just because one decides to associate with one party or the next. These are God-given rights and freedoms that we have, and they are also rights and freedoms that are protected under the Constitution of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
Baptiste said the nation needs to start teaching its children about these rights “so that they can grow up with a certain sensitivity towards the rights and freedoms of others and they could have greater respect in their relationship with each other as a result of this knowledge in their hearts and in their minds”.
She also said there is a need for legislative reform that will provide stiffer penalties for certain crimes, adding that the nation must educate the populace about these laws so that potential perpetrators and victims know the consequences of certain crimes.
She also said there is a need to improve and increase the relevant structures for rehabilitation and support of victims.
“Frankly speaking, one crisis centre with just about 10 beds is not enough. A woman or a child who is fleeing from a perpetrator in the middle of the night, let’s say, in a domestic violence situation must be able to have immediate access to assistance.”
She said a woman must not be limited in her access to a protection order because she is in a visiting relationship.
“Our laws need to be widened … to protect all kinds of victims in domestic violence situations,” Baptiste said, adding that there is a problem of the time taken to address sexual crimes against women.
“And I would love to see and I would pursue a way in which we can address our judicial structure to provide some sort of a special court that could give swift attention to violent crimes such as rape. People shouldn’t have to wait for too long to have these things addressed.
“The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 8:11 than when sentence against an evil work is not carried our speedily the hearts of the sons of men are set within them to do evil. In other words, they believe they can get away. But we need to do something better in this country. And there are things that can be done.”
The rally was held to pray for healing after the death of former Unity Labour Party South Leeward council member, Edgar Cruickshank, who was killed when a car crashed into an opposition New Democratic Party meeting in Clare Valley on Dec. 6.
Several charges have been brought against the driver of the vehicle, Antwone “Quincy” Anthony.