Time to look at ‘macho’ men in the Caribbean

– UN official at Aspire launch

(Trinidad Guardian) Gabrielle Henderson, the United Nations’ Women Programme specialist from the UN’s multi-country office in Barbados, said on Wednesday that three of the top ten rape rates in the world occur in the Caribbean and that 48 per cent of adolescents in nine regional islands said sexual initiation was forced.

She was speaking at the launch of Advocates for Safe Parenthood: Improving Reproductive Equity’s (Aspire) campaign, entitled Respectful Relationships, at UWI’s Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies conference room, St Augustine. The campaign was launched with the assistance of several Aspire’s partners, including UWI’s Institute of Gender and Development Studies.

The programme was part of the global 16 days of activism to end gender violence. In her address to the audience, comprising students from St Joseph College, St Joseph, and representatives from the Ministry of Gender, Child and Youth Develop-ment, UWI students, among others, Henderson said the Caribbean’s concept of masculinity needed to be addressed.

She said: “In the Carib-bean, like in most cultures globally, aggression is regarded as a positive feature of masculinity. “The socialisation of boys in families, schools and communities reinforces the traits of aggression and dominance, just as it does, the complementary trait of passivity in girls and women.

“While this rigidity in gender roles has changed somewhat, a cursory examination of popular culture will reveal that more than ever, an aggressiveness, which borders on violence, is portrayed as an integral dimension of masculinity.” Henderson added that the international agency would be creating partnerships to enforce change.

She said: “UN women over the past seven years have been on programmes which build partnerships with a range of actors, including men’s organisations to address the kinds of cultural changes that are needed for more equal and respectful gender relations between women, men, boys and girls. “One of these programmes is our Partnership for Peace, a psycho-educational programme for men who are in the court system as perpetrators of domestic violence.

“This programme is under evaluation in one of the countries but already it is clear that at the most basic level many men have had only inadequate avenues to explore their emotions, to understand self and to hold themselves accountable for their own actions.

“This year, T&T, in addition to the support provided to Aspire’s respectful relationships campaign within the context of the 16 days of activism activity, UN Women will also support activities of the Rape Crisis Society of T&T, CAFRA (Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action) and in collaboration with the UN system in T&T, the YWCA,” Henderson said.

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