MINISTER in the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) Ayanna Webster-Roy said incidences of gender-based violence has increased in Trinidad and Tobago and worldwide during the covid19 pandemic.She made her comments during a virtual town hall meeting on ending gender-based violence on Thursday.
"Today is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women." Webster-Roy said available data suggests that during the pandemic, there has been a significant global increase in the already widespread fight against violence against women.
"Reports of intimate partner violence increased significantly between 2020 and 2021, compared to previous years." She added ,"Both globally and in TT, domestic violence-related deaths increased during the pandemic." The pandemic, Webster-Roy continued, has drastically changed people's way of life and this has been a contributing factor to increases in gender based violence.
But gender-based violence is not limited to only women and girls. Webster-Roy said this type of violence is everybody's business. "This is not a women's issue but a human rights issue." Recalling that Government laid a national gender policy document in Parliament recently, Webster-Roy said Government continues to do what it can to educate the public about gender-based violence and provide help to those in need.
UN Women representative Tonni Brodber agreed with Webster-Roy. Brodber said recent studies showed TT saw a 149 per cent increase in gender-based violence from last June to now. Over the same period, Anguilla and Barbados saw increases of 115 and 35 per cent respectively.
Brodber praised Government for amending domestic-violence legislation to allow victims of domestic violence easier access to emergency protection orders and virtual court hearings. She stressed the need for ongoing improvements in data collection on instances of gender-based violence, since many of them are frequently not reported because of victims' fear of going to the police.
Men being violent against other men, having extra-marital relationships, controlling behaviours and being exposed to abuse as children were all identified as factors which contributed to intimate partnership violence.
In addition to this type of violence, Brodber said sexual assault, sexual harassment and human trafficking also needed to be part of any conversation about gender based violence.
Antoinette Jack-Martin, acting director of the Gender Affairs Division, said recent information showed 89 per cent of the calls made to the division's domestic-violence hotlines were women. It was estimated that a total of 2,236 calls were made to local domestic-violence hotlines between June and September.
Jack-Martin also said there are two safe houses for domestic-violence victims – one for women and girls and the other for men.