BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Regional countries are being urged to recognise the linkage between socio economic development and domestic abuse as the Caribbean Monday launched a campaign to end violence against women.
Barbados Minister of Labour, Dr. Esther Byer Sookoo, told delegates to the United Nations sponsored conference that for too many years, the effort to end violence against women has been a “rather lonely one led largely by the women of the world and a few men, who understood the effect and impact of domestic violence on our societies”.
She said that as far back as 1928, women throughout the world have been working assiduously to educate the global population and to eradicate all forms of gender based violence.
She said while there have been some successes in the long struggle it was also important to ensure that the entire community is involved in eradicating violence and “not to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear at “man-and-woman” business.
“Teach our children to talk of these things, and teach our adults to respond with compassion. We are outraged by child sexual abuse; in the same way we must be outraged by all forms of violence, including domestic violence.
“Let us not comfort ourselves that it is not happening to us, or, that no-one knows about it. Through public education at all ages, we can strengthen accountability in our community, “ she said, adding that those in authority, such as the judiciary, police and health workers “ who don’t see it as serious; who pass judgement on who deserved what; who don’t respond after the second or third call; who see domestic issues as private.
“Our society, including and especially the media, must hold them accountable,” Dr. Byer Sookoo said, adding that as a legislator she understands the importance of law.
“This fight must involve stronger laws which seem to be taking too long to be become reality. Lawmakers must be held accountable. This particular area, and not just the management of the economy, must be an issue which can make or break political campaigns.
“Governments should be judged by how they treat to these issues. Especially in this economic recession when we are told that much of our economic fortune is out of our control. These laws which make our society safer are definitely within our control.”
The Labour Minister said that it is also important to make the linkage between domestic violence and the social and economic cost to the all stakeholders.
“ It is unfortunate, that we must reduce it to figures, but there is a general acceptance, that money talks. So there is money talking when we utilize our hospital and other health services. Money talks when we pay for the use of police and other judicial services in the quest for protection orders, sittings of the judges and the magistrates.
“Money talks when there is a reduction or loss of productivity. And we could go on and on and count the economic and social cost of domestic violence,” she said, noting that such costs do not even include the numbers of children who are failing in schools and are resident at state institutions.
“ What really would be the national savings were we to eliminate domestic violence from our society? Could it mean more resources to allocate to the care, protection and education of the children by being able to afford universal access to preschool, or care of the elderly, or the provision of a wider range of drugs and care for the chronically ill?”
She also urged society not to ridicule men who shows affection for his family, noting that masculinity appears to be tied up with the notion of hyper-heterosexuality, multiple partners, and homophobia.
“This construction of masculinities causes an increased male vulnerability and provides the opportunity to deliver violence, and to receive violence. This masculinity is sometimes fuelled by a further notion of a guaranteed male dominance, supported by a feminine subordination that belies the state’s investment in educating all of its citizens, boys and girls, men and women from birth until death as they say.
“In today’s world, we might want to address the faith based groups and seek help in redefining the multiple roles that men and women must adopt and adapt in order to deal with the global and local changes,” Dr. Byer Sookoo said.
In his message to the conference, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki moon said the UNiTE Campaign to End Violence Against Women must involve everyone, from schools and street markets to parliament and the courts of justice.
He said since he launched the campaign two years ago, regional initiatives have been launched in Latin America and Africa and that he has also been able to have established a Network of Men Leaders “which works to challenge destructive stereotypes, embrace equality, and inspire men and boys to speak out.
“No country is immune from gender-based violence, which is abhorrent in its own right, and can prevent girls from getting an education and women from earning a living. Sadly, it is clear that women in the Caribbean region suffer high levels of such violence,” the UN Secretary General said, adding that recent statistics indicate that one in every three women will experience violence in a personal relationship in her lifetime.
He said prosecutions and convictions remain very low.
“The UNiTE Campaign can build on the work that has already been done by the UN, national governments and others to raise awareness, build partnerships and have a greater impact on prevention, protection, justice and services for the victims of gender-based violence.
“Violence against women must not be tolerated, in any form, in any context, in any circumstance, by any political leader or by any government. There can be no exceptions, no excuses and no delay,” he added.