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A ‘shared’ duty

On the drive against women abuse

In Guyana, a woman’s one-year-old granddaughter is shot to death because granny’s ex-lover wanted to get back at her for ending their relationship.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) held a motorcade last weekend to observe the 16 Days Of Activism Against  Gender Violence.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) held a motorcade last weekend to observe the 16 Days Of Activism Against
Gender Violence.

In Dominica, a man enters his girlfriend’s workplace and chops her about the body with a cutlass.

And here at home in Barbados, in the latest case to shock the nation, a 75-year-old woman is taken against her will and, three weeks later, her body is found in a ravine, leaving
her family to ask: “Why her?”

It’s a question that families in Barbados and across the Caribbean ask every time a woman is beaten, or killed, or suffers some form of violence at the hands of her partner.

For the past week various women’s organizations and government agencies have been holding a number of activities across the region to observe the United Nation’s 16 Days Of Activism Against Gender Violence to raise awareness of the prevalence of violence against women.

The global campaign runs from November 25 (International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women) to December 10 (International Human Rights Day).

“This has been commemorated for almost 20 years now. And you do see in the Caribbean it means a great deal to governments. They often use the 16 days to launch their policies, to identify the policies they’re launching; but also to work at the community level, in schools and churches and elsewhere to raise awareness,” UN women representative and head of the Multi-Country Office for the Caribbean, Christine Arab, tells Barbados TODAY.

“For the women in Barbados, the 16 days provide a platform to concentrate people’s attention on the issue and the root causes of the issue of violence in the region.”

Arab says even though the statistics show that one in three women worldwide will face some kind of abuse in her lifetime, there have been some gains in the campaign against abuse of women.

“But what has changed significantly in the past 20 years is that there’s legislation now; there are protection orders. Those protection orders in Barbados are actively enforced; there are men regularly being brought before the courts for violence. And it sends a very important message that the state does not sanction it.

“Also, younger people understand now that there is such
a thing as domestic violence; that it is wrong. And definitely in UN Women we can see that shift over 20 years,” she says.

But while women’s advocacy groups may celebrate the progress being made within the judicial system, they remain, Arab says, discouraged and frustrated at the number of women losing their lives to abuse.

“. . . That can be very frustrating, because at the heart of it is behaviour change. And behaviour change is one of the hardest things to effect,” she says.

Pointing to its need, Arab said the gradual involvement of men, especially the more influential men in society, in campaigns such as 16 Days Of Activism, is enough reason to be hopeful the desired change will come.

“I think it’s essential. Last year, globally, the executive director for UN Women launched the He For She campaign and [has been] working with our Caribbean partners around He For She, and prior to that working with the Caribbean Male Action Network (CARIMAN).

“It’s important because violence against women is caused by discrimination –– gender-based discrimination. That’s at the heart of it, and there has to be an understanding that
in gender there’s no discrimination. It’s a shared responsibility of women and men,” Arab says.

She believes that stamping out violence against women is a shared responsibility, and engaging young boys, as well as men, will also help to reduce cases of abuse.

“If you interview young people right now –– young boys; let’s say teenagers in the Caribbean, boys and girls ––
I can almost guarantee you you wouldn’t have a distinction between the girls and the boys in how they assess what is acceptable levels of violence. It means it’s a social issue.
It means that the two have to work together to change it.

“And you cannot approach either the victim or the perpetrator. We are all responsible to some extent that domestic violence has been allowed to happen, and violence against women has been allowed to happen,” Arab said.  

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