Civil society activists are calling for more men to become involved in the response to the escalating gender-based violence in Guyana.
The call was made at a film screening and panel discussion hosted by the Guyana Equality Forum (GFF) and its partners, on Monday November 25, in observance of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
The film screening and panel discussion, which was held at Moray House in Georgetown, was the initial awareness-raising event for the 16 days of activism to end gender-based violence which culminates on December 10 – Human Rights Day. In a press release, the Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimina-tion (SASOD) said the two films were screened to stimulate the panel discussion about gender-based violence.
The first, Audre Lorde – The Berlin Years: 1984 – 1992, produced and donated by Dr Dagmar Schultz, chronicles the years the acclaimed black, feminist, lesbian poet and activist, Audre Lorde, spent in Berlin, and her contributions to the Afro-German women’s movement and her contributions to the German discourse on racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, classism, and homophobia within the black movement, and the black and white women’s movement.
The second film, Voices of Survivors is a short documentary produced by Red Thread which shares the heart-wrenching stories of Guyanese women who have suffered domestic violence.
“Both films proved very insightful and catalyzed discussions on respecting differences and the influence of religion on the socio-cultural norms which lead to gender-based violence,” the group said. SASOD also noted that much of the discussion centred on how some faith-based organisations perpetuate this violence; and conversely, the role of religious institutions as safe spaces and places of solace for victims of gender-based violence.
Reverend Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, executive director at the Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association (GRPA) said that the church is breaking its silence and speaking up against domestic violence.
Panellist Eric Phillips who is the Executive Director of the African Cultural Development Association (ACDA), led the call for more men to be involved in the movement to end gender-based violence but also contended that women’s leadership, especially political leadership, is very important to this issue.
The other panellists were Karen De Souza from Red Thread and Danuta Radzik representing Help and Shelter. All the panellists agreed that the level of violence within the family is alarming and that more has to be done to discourage others from being passive onlookers whenever abuse is occurring.
De Souza pointed out that religious organisations need to be part of a comprehensive national plan to end gender-based violence and that the message has to come from them that “as important as the family is, it cannot be erected as more important than the safety of the women and children of the family.”
In addition, Radzik posited that violence exists because of inequalities in relationships between men and women and that, to some degree, it is perpetuated by fear.
“The fears and prejudices that suppress women are similar in nature to those that lead to discrimination against homosexuals, bisexuals and transgenders,” she said.
The panel and audience made a number of recommendations, such as the need to address violence against children, and expanding the Health and Family Life Education curriculum to include topics about sexuality and violence. There was also a call for the strengthening of institutional frameworks created to protect victims of gender-based violence, and for material resources to be provided to support persons to leave abusive relationships.
The discussions were moderated by SASOD’s Co-Chair, Joel Simpson. The GRPA, Red Thread, Help and Shelter, The Mothers’ Union of the Anglican Church, Guyana Rainbow Foundation and SASOD partnered with the GFF to host the event.
The GEF is a network of civil society groups working cohesively to achieve equality and realise human rights for all Guyanese. It is currently chaired by Red Thread while SASOD serves as its administrative secretariat. The event was funded by the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice through SASOD, the statement said.