It hurts when we have to take on one of the “good” ones. However, one must concede that Atma Shanto, negotiator of the Fédération des Travailleurs Unis, invited it on himself when he sprang to the defence of six caregivers from the now notorious L’Oiseau du Paradis shelter. As the noble champion of women and riding in as a white knight fighting for women’s rights, Atma Shanto sees the arrest of the shelter workers as ‘women harassment’*.
For the record, a three-month old baby was taken to hospital, spent days hooked up to a tube and she is still fighting for her life. A one-month-old baby was hospitalised for a rather long period of time and returned to the shelter, where apparently they had no idea how to look after him nor perhaps the will to even care. Another one-year old child spent days in pain because of hernia and no one in the incriminated shelter seemed to see that as an emergency necessitating hospitalisation…
When the leader of the opposition and opposition MP Stéphanie Anquetil zoomed in on the shelter, it transpired that the caregivers were grossly underqualified for the job they were hired to do, arguably through nepotism and interventionism. Some were not mentally fit to work with children. Now that some sort of inquiry into the alleged neglect and callousness meted out to innocent children and babies seems to have finally started, crass feminism creeps in to almost collude with the opacity already maintained there.
This kind of extreme feminism is counterproductive and even dangerous. Since most, if not all, child minders and caregivers in this country are females, if every time an irresponsible, uncaring caregiver is taken to task unions jump up to the rescue, think of the kind of ill-treatment this is inviting and the kind of care our children will be reduced to. Think of the sort of violence we are inviting on our future generations.
We should also be very wary of accepting what at times is abusive feminism which many politicians use in a bid to shore up support from liberals and female voters. We have seen from the women sitting in our parliament today that a large feminine presence does not necessarily augur well for democracy or human rights. Many of our ministers and MPs sat quietly as some of our democratic gains were being dismantled. In fact, many stood and read speeches that seem to have been prepared for them advocating more powers for the prime minister and fewer rights for citizens, men and women. They looked the other way when there were clear cases of human rights abuses. They condoned repressive laws. They were the first to defend opacity, nepotism and many cases of corruption. The fact that they are women has even helped contribute to create a perceived legitimacy of a regime that is clearly anti-democratic in approach and methods.
The fight for women’s right is about the equal sharing of power among citizens irrespective of their gender. It is about equal pay and equal treatment no matter what the gender is. Subverting democracy through appointing women who toe the line all along while other women’s and men’s rights are being abused is in itself abusive in nature.
As a woman, I have no sympathy for the female workers at L’Oiseau du Paradis nor do I have any compunction about seeing them face justice. They arguably benefited from their proximity to power to land jobs they are not qualified for. They neglected and possibly abused children entrusted to their care. They deserve no forgiveness or being made martyrs on the account of their gender. Thankfully, their incompetence and heartlessness came to light and they have run out of road!
I agree with Atma Shanto that they should not be the only ones to carry the can. Many others higher up participated in, condoned and even defended the atrocities going on in the shelter. They should all be held accountable starting with the minister of gender equality, Kalpana Koonjoo-Shah. I hope no voices will be raised in her defence because of her gender. That would be abuse!
*Le Mauricien 23 November, 2022