DOMESTIC violence, coupled with the physical and mental abuse of women, is now a national plague and must be eliminated, Sharon Rowley, wife of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, has said.
“There are still too many women here who struggle, who don’t know about equal pay for equal work, who have to deal with sexual harassment, rape, and domestic violence. There are children who, because of the antiquated practice of child marriage, now abolished in TT, had their childhood ended, education curtailed, and economic opportunities minimised,” Rowley said at a conference on the Press for Gender Justice yesterday at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine.
She said it doesn’t matter who a person is or where they come from since one can still be a victim. In some sectors, it is simply that the abuse is suffered in silence. Quoting Singing Francine, Rowley said it was “not easy to be a battered wife, getting abused for the rest of your life.” And while the calypsonian may have thought it was easy to “run away before he kill yuh dead,” for many women who live in fear, it’s not that easy.
“We have to do all that we can do to ensure that all women in TT can enjoy equality and dignity. We must all be able to live lives filled with opportunity – lives free from discrimination and violence. You see, it is my view that one of the areas of our national focus must be on the elimination of violence against women,” Rowley said.
She also stressed on gender parity. “The unfortunate truth is that there are still too many women in TT who have no idea what gender parity is about, who have not discovered that they can be empowered; their power has been crushed. These women believe they cannot, they must not or they should not,” she said. She noted that while the country strove for equality in government, and has been since Independence, there still was not a 50/50 division in Parliament.
She used the example of her own life, acknowledging that while she could not claim to be an activist, she “firmly belives in the equlaity of the sexes,” something that was instilled in her by her parents, at school and in marriage and motherhood.