IN spite of the many pieces of legislation passed in TT to protect women, Congress of the People (COP) leader Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan said there is still too much discrimination and violence against women.
Exploring the laws which created offences for rape, domestic violence and sexual assault, she observed at an International Women’s Day (IWD) forum at the Susamachar Presbyterian Church, San Fernando, on Friday, “we still have so much of that in this country.”
“The bottom line is that the legislative hammer cannot solve this problem. So as much as we want to go to the Parliament and pass laws, that is not the solution.”
“The solution lies within our own socio-cultural norms. The legacy, the patriarchal society we live in, the colonialism.”
She said the United Nations has recognised that in order to break from that past and to make this change, has come up with the theme, think equal, build smart and innovate for change.
“We have to stop doing business as usual. We have to disrupt what we are doing if we are going to achieve that balanced world by the year 2030.”
She said the balance for better campaign must be taken to the boardrooms, for governance, in all professions and disciplines, “because it allows communities and countries to thrive."
“Many laws have been passed in this country, one of them in particular, property rights for women with the Co-cohabitational Act of 2000 giving women rights to property even in a common-law relationship, which is very progressive legislation compared even to the United Kingdom. Yet, we still have that gender gap. We still have only 14 per cent of women owning land and land is an economic power. So women are not being economically empowered. Women are still under the poverty line.”
Seepersad-Bachan said community-based groups which support women who are victims of rape and domestic violence must regroup. She said ways have to be found to support vulnerable women with online learning and technology, as a means to innovate the changes and break the barriers.
“We have to remove those socio-cultural barriers that are keeping women back. I mean women have done very well they have surpassed men at every level, primary, secondary and tertiary education. Yet still, there is that imbalance when it comes to leadership position, lucrative professions, into governance because of stereotyping in society.
“As a people, as women and men, we have to dismantle that stereotyping.
Presbyterian Church moderator Rev Annabell Ramkalawan said, “We want to move to a world without violence against women.. The Presbyterian Church has joined the World Council of Churches in their Thursday in Black advocacy, to dress in black and wear a pin to say to the world we are not happy. We are not comfortable, we would not accept violence against women."
She said the church has been trying to educate women at its youth gatherings, encouraging girls to speak out if they feel they are exploited or if violence is being committed against them.