Violence against women a barrier to sustainable development – Dr. Douglas Slater

Assistant Secretary-General, Human and Social Development, Dr. Douglas Slater

“While violence is an extreme violation of women and girls’ human rights, it also incurs huge economic costs for women, families and communities,” Assistant Secretary-General for the Directorate of Human and Social Development, Dr. Douglas Slater said.

Addressing the Annual CARICOM Secretariat’s Staff Mixer hosted by the Gender and Development Programme in observance of 16 Days of Activism Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence, on 25 November, Dr. Slater said violence against women is a clear barrier to sustainable development. He urged Member States to collect, analyse and disseminate reliable statistics on this phenomenon to inform the revision of laws.

Noting that violence against women and girls was already high before the pandemic, Dr. Slater said prevalence surveys conducted between 2017-2019, revealed high rates of intimate partner violence– 55% in Guyana, 48% in Suriname, 44% in Trinidad and Tobago, and 39% in Grenada and Jamaica.

An earlier UNDP Caribbean Human Development Report, he said, found more women than men experience fear of sexual assault (30.4% compared to 11.1% of men); being beaten by spouse (11.5% compared to 8.6% of men) and being killed (35.4% compared to 32.8% of men).

Research indicates a significant level of incidence of violence during the pandemic, Dr. Slater said, noting that Barbados observed a 38% increase in domestic violence reports during the lockdown. Trinidad and Tobago saw a 119% increase in call volume to the National Domestic Hotline for the period January to October 2020, while the country’s Police Service observed a 78% year-on-year increase in domestic violence reports between March and August 2020. For Anguilla, monthly data available for the first two quarters of 2020, showed a 125% increase in reports of domestic disputes in March 2020, while April 2020 saw an 88% spike, the Human and Social Development chief pointed out.

He said that a partnership involving the UN Women, the CARICOM Secretariat and the Regional Spotlight Initiative will, for the first time, support a regional study on the economic cost of violence, to inform policy initiatives to address the scourge violence on the Region.

Underscoring the significance of the 16 Days of Activism Campaign Against Gender-Based Violence to women and girls enjoying the full complement of their human rights, he said they “cannot do it alone.”

“Men and boys must become involved. I encourage all staff members to take decisive action, as we all have a shared responsibility in achieving gender equality which is one of the main drivers to end violence against women now!”

Deputy Programme Manager for Gender and Development within the Directorate of Human and Social Development, Ms. Ann-Marie Williams said that she is hopeful that people will take time to reflect on meaningful ways to talk about and tackle the silent pandemic of gender-based violence that the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated.

“Conversations must be had with women -young and old – as well as men, because global data from the World Health Organization show that men account for upwards of 85% of the perpetrators,” she stated.

Noting that gender inequality is a major driver of Gender Based Violence, she said, “we must impress upon parents to socialise their boys and girls equally…the home is the first place where they experience unequal treatment, then it’s institutionalised in schools, they go out in the working world, and that’s what they practice because it’s all they know.”

Striking an encouraging tone she added, “we must raise our boys to be warm, caring and smart, as well as our girls. That the only way to end violence against women, now!”

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