AN alliance of social actors in a statement on Monday called for an urgent national action plan against gender violence, saying it was not enough to just mourn murder/kidnap victims Andrea Bharatt and Ashanti Riley.
The Alliance for State Action to End Gender-based Violence includes the Coalition against Domestic Violence, the Institute of Gender and Development Studies (UWI, St Augustine), CAISO, the FPA, PLOTT, WINAD, YWCA, CAFRA, Workingwomen and Womantra.
The alliance said in its statement: "Words are not sufficient to express our collective grief on the murder of Andrea Bharatt. We hold her family and her friends in our hearts and offer our deepest condolences."
Women are at risk for physical and sexual violence in homes and on the streets, the alliance lamented. "Violence against women and girls is a national emergency and should be treated as such.
"Whilst we have had some signs of progress, as a country we still do not have a co-ordinated plan to prevent and respond to this terror that stalks women’s and girls’ lives."
The group lamented some men's use of violence to express power and control over women, as linked to gender inequality and sexist attitudes and behaviours.
"Too many men continue to receive the message that being a man means being dominant, being the 'head of household,' being in charge, having access to women’s bodies whether there is consent or not, and controlling women’s lives."
One in three women has experienced domestic violence, and one in five has been sexually assaulted, the alliance said.
"These statistics come as no surprise to women who must be on high alert on the streets, in the workplace, and in public transportation because sexual harassment can quickly escalate into physical and sexual violence.
"Too many women have shared, just in the past week, stories of the terror faced in travelling to and from home each day for work, the fear of doing day to day tasks that should be simple, and the grief and anger of yet another woman missing, now murdered."
Women know of too many women and girls still missing.
"It is not enough to grieve for Ashanti Riley, for Andrea Bharatt and for the many girls who have gone missing, been kidnapped or been killed. It is not enough to grieve for Suzette Sylvester, killed by her husband. We must act."
This is an obligation for the whole of society, it said, but with the onus most heavily on those with the power and responsibility to make the difference.
"For government, we repeat our call for a national action plan which is accompanied by a budget.
"This plan should improve policing, it should fund shelters, and it should improve judicial services so that we have a system in which delay is not endemic."
The group said the education system, from early childhood education to university, must include messages of gender and sexual equality and respect, so teaching practice is infused with empathy and care. It urged an end to corporal punishment, saying the use of violence to discipline entails more harm than good.
"We have to take seriously the need for a gender-sensitive transportation policy that takes women’s greater use of public transportation and real vulnerability getting to or from work or to their families."
Organisations involving men should take serious responsibility here.
"Today we ask male leaders and male dominated institutions, what are you doing? What are you saying? How are you acting to make the world a more equal and safe space for women?
"We call on men to organise a public show of solidarity at this time when women need to know that men are committed to a world in which they are safe from men’s violence against women."
This should be done not because women are men's mothers, sisters, "tanties" or daughters, but because women are human beings, equally entitled to lives of dignity, peace and safety.