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Rape and violation of women a global epidemic – Stephenson

Rape and violation of women a global epidemic – Stephenson
Frederick Stephenson, the minister with responsibility for child development and gender equality

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There has been somewhat of a decline in sexual violence in St Vincent and the Grenadines within the last four years, reports suggest.

This is according to Frederick Stephenson, the minister with responsibility for child development and gender equality, who was responding to a question in Parliament on November 26 about rape.

“In 2015, there were some 247 cases of indecent assault, rape among others. 2016, it went down to 196; in 2017, it went to 264, and in 2018, there were 223 cases ,” the minister said.

He added that indecent assault accounted for the largest number of cases in the years mentioned.

Stephenson said that it is not his intention to downplay the social issue as one case of rape “is one case to many”.

“However rape and violation of our women is a global epidemic and concern, hence its thematic focus for the next two years at the level of the United Nations and here in St Vincent and the Grenadines,” he said.

The minister revealed that the government recently granted approval for a comprehensive review of the sexual offences division of the Criminal Code that discriminates against women, girls and other vulnerable groups.

And he said that this is being done so that local laws can adopt the recommendations made by the United Nations Human Rights bodies.

“This review will provide a recommendation of reform to reflect international good practices on issues such as rape and sexual assault, sexual offences relating to people with disabilities and the age of consent. The review will also involve continuous consultation with key stakeholders within the judiciary, the legislature, social sector and civil society, inclusive of the Christian Council,” Stephenson said.

He also proffered that everyone within society needs to do more and say that enough is enough in order to truly move towards the elimination of the crime.

The minister noted several steps that the government has taken so far, including the introduction of a suite of legislation, policies and programmes to respond to reports of child abuse and domestic violence.

Stephenson made specific reference to work done by the Child Development and Gender Affairs Divison, who are the drivers of the Break the Silence Campaign since 2012.

“In addition Mr Speaker, these two divisions in association with other social partners such as the Family Court, the ministry of education, the ministry of health, Marion House, continue to provide support services to victims of gender based violence,” he said. “These assistances are varied but include therapeutic interventions, social protection, emergency and short term shelter, and empowerment sessions to allow for victims to become conquerers and survivors.”

Stephenson said that gender based violence is not an easy or overnight task and he reiterated the government’s efforts to join forces with parliamentarians, communities, families, churches and other social and civic organisation to change attitudes and eliminate violence against women and girls.

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