TT is going through a national crisis with respect to gender-based and intimate partner violence, and it has been so for a long time, a university lecturer declared as civil society organisations rally support for victims.
Dr Angelique Nixon, lecturer at UWI’s Institute for Gender and Development Studies, and co-director of CAISO sex and gender justice, said not only are men killing women, but killing other men around the relationship.
Nixon was speaking to Sunday Newsday on Saturday at Woodford Square, Port of Spain where members of several organisations met to participate in an anti-violence rally and take part in Orange Day: A Remembrance for Victims of Gender-based Violence.
The group included the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Catholic Commission for Social Justice, Family Planning Association of TT, UWI Institute for Gender and Development Studies, National Union of Domestic Employees, Network of NGOS for the Advancement of Women, Organisation for Abused and Battered Individuals, The Shelter for Battered Women and Children, Women of Substance Tobago, and more.
At the square men, women, and children gathered to demand justice and action from the Government for women who have died from gender-based violence, as well as future victims.
According to statistics from Womantra, 20 women were murdered by a partner since November 2018. They included Natalie Marsha Cadogan, Aleisha Ramnath, Katherine Diaz, Bassie Sooknanan, Evelyn Mata Rojas, mother and daughter Shanille and Akila Choon, Phoolandaye Singh, Roxanne Mack, Selene Sankar, Dolmati Mangroo, and others including two unidentified women.
A group of people dressed in orange stood in front of the newly-renovated Red House, recited the names of the 20 women, held placards with a short biography of each, and led the small crowd in a moment of silence.
“We are even more outraged that at the beginning of 2020 we had three incidents where, with each of those women, there was some sense that people knew and it could have been prevented,” said Nixon.
She said the women either had a protection order against the men, the neighbours or family members knew the men had threatened their lives or had said outright they were going to kill the women.
“We have these three outrageous moments that have happened where it could have been prevented if the police did their job, if the protection orders worked, if the structures and systems that are supposed to be in place from the Domestic Violence Act to the way which domestic violence and intimate-partner violence is supposed to be addressed, if the reporting mechanisms worked, those women would be alive.”
Nixon said the State had to be held responsible and had to do more. Therefore, the groups called on the Government to meet six demands. These included increased effectiveness, accountability and transparency of the State; ensuring sufficient financial and organisational support for state agencies dealing with survivors and victims; and amending the Domestic Violence Act to ensure non-discriminatory, timely and effective access to justice and safety.
In her address, Sabrina Mowlah-Baksh, general manager of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence called for equality, peace and an end to violence against women.
She said they were gathered to remember and mourn the women “whose lives have been taken away from them by men whose notions of manhood are tied to the exercise of power and control over women.”
She said she hoped the rally would give solidarity to the women and children who live in situations of abuse and that those women and children realised they can get help.
“Let us make sure that we learn the lessons from their deaths. And the first lesson is that we all have a part to play in ending gender-based violence. Let us speak out and stand up every day as we are doing today.
“Let us demand from the State accountability for effective programmes for the prevention, protection and responses to domestic violence. We urge the Government to share and adopt the national strategy to end gender-based violence.”
She called for accountability in the new police Gender-Based Violence Unit, that survivors be treated and protected at all costs, that survivors have timely experiences with court hearings and obtaining protection orders, and a social fund to meet the immediate needs of survivors including relocation, legal representation, access to emergency funds and other forms of social support.