AMÏLCAR SANATAN TERRY INCE
VIOLENCE against women continues to afflict Caribbean societies and undermine national development. This has costs on the psychic and social well-being of victims as well as social and public health sectors and the economy.
According to UN Women Caribbean, one in three women will experience a form of gender-based violence. Violence against women – including domestic violence, intimate partner violence, rape, sexual assault and public street harassment – is fundamentally violation of their human rights.
Notably, through activist agitation and the growing number of parliamentary voices to reduce violence against women, there is legislation that empowers the state to address the problem of violence against women. However, the shortcomings in implementation, low prosecution rates, and discontinued legal proceedings by victims, who are sometimes pressured into dropping charges for a few reasons, limit the achievements of the legislation.
In TT, where violence and crime are prevalent, it is necessary that the state and social groups make specialised interventions to address the problem of violence against women. While public awareness campaigns share information and challenge the ideas that promote violence against women in society, it is equally important that we assign the resources for community security and social services to eliminate violence against women.
International instruments, such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), provide guidance and a framework for building appropriate societal infrastructures to promote balance and equality and to circumvent the dynamics that indirectly or directly allow for violence against women and girls. CEDAW is an international treaty adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. TT became a signatory to the convention in 1985 and ratified it in 1990. Since then, this country has made important advances in protections for women, girls and families in areas such as education, health and safety, family court, maternity and human trafficking.
It was welcome news when in March 2018, the green paper on the Gender Policy was laid in Cabinet and last Tuesday, the Gender Equality Protocol for Judicial Officers was launched by the Judiciary, which would provide for justice through a gender lens.
Beyond the legal/judicial framework, however, we must recognise the role we all should play, so that as a country we achieve substantive equality for men and women, boys and girls. Public and private sector, civil society and citizens must stand up and speak out against violence in all forms and against women and girls.
TT enjoys an active women’s movement that, when mobilised, can affect change, so we must continue to collaborate around common issues, form more allies and move the needle forward.
Men, too, must see themselves as a critical stakeholder working with the women’s movement and feminist leaders to advance gender equality. During these 16 Days of Activism, therefore, we encourage men to speak out, speak up and challenge those men who perform acts of violence against women.
Men’s organisations in South Africa, Brazil and India, for example, have joined the #HearMeToo campaign to add their voices to the struggle to end violence against women and advance a wider dialogue on accountability. The #LetsTalkTT: Men Speak campaign of the European Union Delegation and the British High Commission here in TT is one such effort among many to create conversations with men that mobilise them to public action.
Progress is being made, but as a society we must stay engaged, involved and remain vigilant to ensure that we continue moving in the direction of a humane equitable society.
Amïlcar Sanatan Terry Ince is an instructor, UWI Department of Geography convener/co-director, CCoTT, CEDAW Committee of TT.