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Violence against our women cannot be swept under the carpet

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Fri, Jul 15, 2011

The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has reacted strongly to a report from the US State Department on human trafficking. That Report lists our country as being among those guilty of harbouring such practices and accuses the Government of doing little to combat such nefarious crimes.{{more}} However Vincentian diplomatic officials in Washington and New York have refuted the allegations, branding them as being “unfounded” and without factual basis.

Many governments in developing countries view such allegations as being part of a protracted attack by developed countries on underdeveloped ones, laying the blame on them for all sorts of social and economic problems. This includes the dreaded issue of drug trafficking in which even those most of the consumption takes place in the “north”, it is the countries of the “south” which are singled out as the source of the problem.

While this is undoubtedly true, it in no way masks the realities of the grave social problems which countries like ours face, or exonerates us from responsibility for tackling them. Reports such as the recent one from the State Department, may be factually inaccurate, but it is crystal clear that the Caribbean does have a serious problem with violent crime. Statistics from United Nations’ agencies reveal that the murder rate in the Caribbean is now almost twice that of the global average. Four CARICOM countries have homicide rates among the world’s highest, with Jamaica leading the way. Our tiny SVG rides high above the global average, along with several of its Eastern Caribbean neighbours.

Most worrying of all, is the degree to which our females are victims of these brutal and fatal assaults. In the countries of the OECS, SVG has the highest rate of murder of females by intimate partners. In addition, there is the ugly feature of sexual violence against our women. Where rape, that sickening phenomenon, is concerned, the rate is far too high, and that includes the crimes against minors, as well as incest. It does not speak well of the Caribbean to know that while the global average rate for rape is 15 for every 100,000 persons, the rate in the Caribbean is much higher on average.

Whatever the merits or demerits of the State Department allegations, it is worrying to note that it included allegations of “children and adults being subjected to… sex trafficking”, and of “children engaging in sex with men for basics such as food, transportation or material goods”. While defending our country’s reputation vigorously, we cannot afford to ignore the hideous practices that come to our attention via the media each week, or the grim statistics confronting us.

We do have a problem with violence against our women as this newspaper has raised repeatedly (see story on page 6). It cannot be swept under the carpet nor excused by blaming the victims of such crimes. We need first of all to acknowledge the fact, to investigate all such allegations diligently and to put measures in place both to punish the perpetrators as well as to provide support for the victims. This calls for a range of legal, policing and social mechanisms, but it is not beyond our capacity. This evil in our midst must be confronted, combatted and ruthlessly destroyed.

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