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Violence still a major concern

The level of violence perpetrated against women is still “a very, very troubling” area of concern.

But a top UN official says the fight against this is perhaps one of the region’s better success stories.

Acting Director of UN Women, Joan French, clarified that it does not mean the fight against domestic violence perpetrated against women in the Caribbean is over or even close to being resolved as there is still a far way to go, but the level of attention it now generates and receives is of note.

Acting Director of UN Women, Joan French

Speaking to Barbados TODAY, two days before the launch of the international 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence and the November 25 observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Gender-based Violence, French said:

“I think that the struggle against violence is one of the better success stories for the movement in the Caribbean. First of all because I believe it is very hard for anybody to defend violence, but also because it is one of the areas on which there has been a great level of mobilisation by women’s organisations on the ground and by organisations at the multilateral level like UN Women, like UNICEF doing their mobilisation against violence to children and child abuse…

“From that point of view, because there has been such a thrust on the ground by the various women’s organisation because it’s prevalence is troubling, but we see the effects in our daily lives,” she said, referring to working women who tried to hide the bruises caused by violence, or those who were sexually harassed in the workplace.

French, who has headed the Gender office at UN Headquarters as well as several other stations across the globe, recalled leading research in St. Vincent some years ago where interviewers reported that incest was a big problem and the men behind it seeing nothing wrong in claiming rights to the women before any other man.

“That was horrifying to me, but I am noting that in current research we are coming up with similar things. So it is a very deep rooted assumption and so very hard to eradicate,” she said frankly in the wide-ranging interview.

She recalled that when her journey in gender violence began in the 1970s, it was largely not on the agenda, adding that since then advancements have been made in legislations, in updating protocols through the work of UN Women; training of police and magistrates among other areas.

But she noted: “Although the prevalence rates are still high and there is a way to go to figure out how to prevent it, there is at least now the possibility of clear sanction with some remaining issues because women are still constrained in reporting violence if they are dependent on the males.”

Several activities are being planned locally for the observance of the 16 Days of Activism by women’s organisations, like the Business and Professional Women’s group, among others. (LB)

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