Message to commemorate International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls
submitted by SVG Public Service Union Women’s Committee
November 25, 2019 marks another year in the undying struggle for women across the globe to put an end to violence against women and girls. The United Nations’ theme this year “Orange the World, Generation Equality – Stand against Rape” endeavours to encourage our women and girls who have lived through such ordeals to break the silence and let their voices be heard, this is the only way we can demolish the brick wall that stands between us effecting the change necessary, to put an end to the dehumanization of women.
The Public Service Union Women’s Network urges all women and girls throughout St Vincent and the Grenadines to stand in solidarity with our sisters across the globe, recognizing that if we stand together we can make a difference, we can bring about change. We believe that the rights of our women have been violated for too long and we stand firm in the fight to put an end to this epidemic that continues to plague our society.
It appears to us that women within our society are seen as objects; something to be used, abused and played with. Our women are being treated like we possess no feelings or emotions, so no matter how painful our experiences, we are expected to remain silent because whenever we try to speak we are not being heard.
In 2015 the United Nations produced 17 Sustainable Development Goals, with goal number 5 speaking directly to, women empowerment, and diminishing discrimination against women and girls. This empowerment comes in the form of educating our women of: their rights, the laws that are there to protect them, and the services that are available to them when they are violated. Empowerment also involves educating our male counterparts in how women and girls are to be treated and how their behaviour and abusiveness towards our women and girls negatively affects them (women and girls) holistically and as a result affects the socialization of our entire society. The core of the United Nations mandate is to fight discrimination and violence against women and girls. Organizations in solidarity such as Public Services International, UN Women among others, continue to address issues of discrimination, inequality etc. against all women.
Violence against women and girls can be recognized in physical, sexual and psychological forms. The common form found worldwide is Sexual violence and harassment; this includes street harassment, stalking, cyber-harassment, child sexual abuse, unwanted sexual advances, rape, forced sexual acts and intimate partner violence (battering, psychological abuse, and marital rape). Other forms comprise of female genital mutilation, child marriage and human trafficking Many say the solution to addressing violence against women and girls lies in our laws. But in our country are our laws really strong enough to send a rebuttal message to the perpetrators? It is clear that there is a need for preventative measures to be established to ensure the safety of our girls at an early age and also the provision of special services for survivors to help them heal from their ordeals. Too long have we seen our judicial system favouring the PERPETRATORS who admit to committing these offences and in some instances get a reduced sentence; but where is the justice for the victims? How can the unseen emotional and psychological scars that remain with our women and girls be repaired? Where is the sensitivity within our judiciary to create that level of trust among our women and girls for them to muster the courage and freedom to speak?
Over the years St. Vincent and the Grenadines has seen an eruption of violence against our women and girls at all age ranges; from the cradle to the grave. Our women have become victims of rape, abduction as well as indecent, physical (Murder, grievous bodily harm), verbal and physiological assaults. It is becoming more and more evident that women no longer have the safety net that once existed that oftentimes was within the arms of a father, we are becoming more and more vulnerable to the attacks of our male counterparts who seem to have already decided to serve time for their crimes against our women.
Chapter 171 of the Revised Laws of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, 2009 under Section 124 states that any man who has sexual intercourse with a girl under the age of thirteen is guilty of an offense and liable to imprisonment for life. Yet we have been hearing about so many cases where girls as young as eleven are becoming pregnant and girls as young as six years old being sexually molested, yet no one has ever received that maximum penalty. Statistics for the period January 2013 to June 2018 shows that sexual intercourse with girls under the ages of 15 and 13 are in the top three of sexual offences committed. It appears as though this type of behaviour meted out to our children has been normalized to the point that even the children believe its normal. Just recently we heard about a woman raped by five men and last year a teenage girl was allegedly raped by a group of teenage boys. We are now seeing gang raping becoming a prevalent behaviour by our men.
This dehumanization of our women and girls is now being viewed as something we brought upon ourselves. Some of the reasons given for the justification for our suffering are because of the way we dress, the way we speak, the way we look, it’s our “raging hormones”. Our society continues to normalize this crisis with statements like “She brought it upon herself” and “She was begging for it” instead of facing the real truth; which is that the moral and spiritual thread which once bonded our society are ripping from its seam.
It is time for us to break the silence, time for us to come out of the closet, time for us to stop being afraid, it is time for us to make a change. Too long have we whispered in each other ears to hide our trauma, to hide our resentment and pain, anticipating some form of redress. The time is now for our legislators to listen to the voices of our women and girls and take a serious look at what it is doing to our society, we need stricter laws that punish our perpetrators instead of seeming to reward them. We need a code of ethics/conduct which governs behaviour on and off the job that protects our women and girls also from persons in prominent positions. The normalization and the justification of sexual harassment and violence being an inevitable part of a woman’s life, needs to be removed from our culture.