GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC – Caribbean Community (Caricom) Secretary General, Dr Carla Barnett, Friday, said gender-based violence remains a public health crisis in the Caribbean and that rates of gender-based violence (GBV) increased dramatically during the coronavirus (COVID-19).
In a message to mark 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, Barnett said since 1991, the global community has organised activities to mark the occasion, highlighted by four important observances, namely the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November; Human Rights Defenders’ Day, 29 November; World AIDS Day, 1 December; and Human Rights Day on 10 December.
She said that during this period, women’s rights activists have observed November 25 as a day to honour the Mirabal sisters, three political activists from the Dominican Republic, who were brutally murdered in 1960 by order of the country’s ruler, the late Rafael Trujillo.
This year’s theme, “Unite! Activism to End Violence Against Women and Girls!”, is under the banner of the United Nations Secretary General’s UNiTE Campaign which was launched 14 years ago, and Barnett said the initiative is designed to galvanise action to prevent and end violence against women around the world, challenge harmful gender norms, and end impunity, silence and stigma that have allowed violence against women and girls to escalate to pandemic proportions.
“The campaign calls on all women’s rights organisations, feminists groups, civil society actors, human rights defenders, academia, artists, the private sector, governments and individuals to become activists for the prevention of violence against women, to stand in solidarity with women’s rights activists and to support feminist movements around the world to resist the rollback on women’s rights,” she said.
She noted that the work of many international and regional agencies has raised awareness, mobilised advocacy, and inspired individual and collective action to combat gender-based violence in its many forms.
“But gender-based violence remains a public health crisis in the Caribbean. The World Health Organisation asserts that globally, one in three women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in her lifetime, usually from an intimate partner.
“In the Caribbean region, prevalence surveys conducted between 2017-2019 in five member states, with a sample of women and girls 15-64 years, indicate incidence rates as high as one in two women. Our advocacy must therefore be resolute and sustained,” Barnett said.
She said that the rates of GBV increased dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic inequalities have been exacerbated, with women disproportionately affected.
“The effect has been the reversal of decades of some hard-fought gains in gender equality, which threatens the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goal 5 by 2030”.
The Caricom Secretary General noted that UN Women in its 2021 publication titled “Measuring the Shadow Pandemic: Violence against Women during COVID-19”, documents 35 per cent of women reporting that they or a woman they know have experienced a form of violence.
“Some seven in 10 women said they thought that verbal or physical abuse by a partner had become more common, and six in 10 women felt that sexual harassment in public spaces had worsened.
“While we can affirm that some gains that have been made in relation to escalating Gender Based Violence from what was seen as a private matter to recognition as a public concern, and while a body of legislation has been developed in all member states, the incidence of GBV continues to be unacceptably high.”