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Women split on pepper-spray, taser and beepers

By JANELLE DE SOUZA Saturday, February 22 2014

Some women’s organisations support the recommendation that women be allowed to carry non-lethal devices for their protection during the Carnival season, while others believe it could simply mean more weapons on the streets.

The Police Social Welfare Association recently recommended to National Security Minister, Gary Griffith that devices such as pepper-spray, tasers and beepers be legalised so that women could protect themselves and their children during Carnival.

Retired Assistant Police Commissioner and Manager of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) Victim and Witness Support Unit, Margaret Sampson-Browne, said she would support the move, if certain measures were in place.

She noted protection of self was critical, and these items have been used successfully on an international level.

However, it was not only the women who should carry the devices, but men as well. “We have to tell men to protect their women and themselves as well. I will support the issue, but people need to be sensitised. There should be some sort of educational programme to teach persons how they should be used,” she said.

Sampson-Browne pointed out that it would be useless to have the devices in your handbag and then it can’t be easily accessed at a crucial moment. “It must be in a ready position, and it should not be abused, or used indiscriminately. It is an instrument to give you enough time to move away, and get help,” she stated.

She added that, like a gun, there should be safety measures so there is no abuse of the devices, for example, a woman using it on her partner, in an argument.

Sandra Mc Shine, President of the Women’s Organisation for the Underprivileged (WOUP) emphatically agreed with the suggestion. She said the Government is “behind time” as the law should have been changed at least ten years ago.

“It should not be changed for Carnival alone, because crimes against women occur year-round. And it should be legal for everyone, not just women, because men are just as at risk, as we are,”

Mc Shine however, did not believe any training was necessary, saying all that was needed is common sense. “If someone is coming to you with a cutlass, you either run if you are young enough, and if you can’t run, you have to face them. If you don’t have a means to defend yourself, what then?” she asked.

However, head of the Network of NGOs of Trinidad and Tobago for the Advancement of Women, Hazel Brown, was opposed to the idea. “While I am in favour of people being able to protect and defend themselves in dangerous situations, the answer is not to multiply the number of weapons available to us. They may end up being used against the very people they were supposed to protect,” she stated.

She suggested that, instead of carrying these devices, persons should follow the advice of the police as they, as professionals, have made many suggestions on how persons could increase their own personal safety. She added that there were also self-defence programmes available where women can learn to protect themselves.

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