Statistical information continues to indicate increasing violence across the Caribbean region with women experiencing higher rates of domestic and sexual violence, and according to Caricom gender advocate Dr Rosina Wiltshire there is a link between domestic violence and societal violence.
She said research has shown that violence against women has far-reaching consequences and impacts on the society as a whole. “Apart from being a violation of human rights, it profoundly damages the physical, sexual, reproductive, emotional, mental and social well-being of individuals and families,” Dr Wiltshire noted.
In a recent interview conducted ahead of next month’s Caribbean launch of the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence Against Women campaign, Dr Wiltshire points out that efforts to bring focus and concrete action against the terrible scourge of violence against women are beginning to bear fruit in the region.
Dr Wiltshire noted that a lot of the work of the Gender Bureau and government in general to heighten awareness is beginning to pay off with the support of the United Nations: “The UNiTE campaign, the work of the government and the Bureau of Gender Affairs is paying dividends and we have to keep at it because there is a link between domestic violence and societal violence… The women who are raped tend to take out their rage on their boy children. Girls tend to be more likely the subjects of sexual abuse and boys tend to experience physical abuse.”
World Bank research indicates that the overall murder rate in the Caribbean was four times that of North America.
In addition, all of the Caribbean islands have higher rates of sexual violence than the world average: One in four women in Guyana has been physically abused in a relationship.
Approximately 30% of women surveyed in Trinidad & Tobago experienced domestic violence; 67% of women in Suriname have experienced violence in a cohabiting relationship and 30% of adult women in Antigua & Barbuda and Barbados have experienced some form of domestic abuse.
According to Dr Wiltshire there is urgent need to begin a healing process in the society.
She noted that people in the region have been accustomed to a level of violence that is unnatural and born out of our slave history in which violence was a norm. “… When the abnormal becomes normal, it requires some dramatic shift in people’s awareness to take them to a new level of consciousness that says that violence is not right; it must not happen in our homes, in our societies, in our nation, and that it does not represent who we are as a country and who we want to be,” she observed.
She said also that if the problem is not fixed at its beginning point in the home, it is likely to take the region into a really destructive path. Dr Wiltshire pointed out that triggers for violence extend outside the home, noting that corporal punishment in schools is not a productive way to get children to learn. She added where there is a safe environment you get much better results.
Further, she said stressed the need to reintroduce kindness and gentleness into everyday vocabulary as values that are important for every single child and human being. “There is no doubt that we are not educating our children to be compassionate, caring and loving, particularly our boy children, the rougher they are, the more macho we think they are. We need to start teaching our boy children, that kindness is very manly.”