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PROTECT OUR WOMEN

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“Violence against women persists in every country and is a pervasive violator of human rights and a major impediment to the achievement of gender equality”
(From Report of UN Secretary General an In-Depth Study on all forms of Violence vs Women, 2006)

Maybe it was coincidence but not an unhappy one at that, where women are concerned, that an alleged violator of women’s rights, was apprehended by police in the course of such violation and shot on November 25, 2008. That day has been proclaimed by the international community as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.{{more}} It was not surprising therefore that many Vincentians women breathed at least one sigh of relief on hearing the news, given what they have been going through these past few months.

Whilst having to cope, like the rest of us, with the stresses and strains of everyday life, skyrocketing cost of living being paramount, our mothers, daughters and sisters, were undergoing daily (especially nightly) psychological terror. The spate of brutal rapes and sexual assaults against women had our better halves living in mortal fear. This was especially so for women living without adult males in the house, particularly living alone. “Would I be next?”, was the obvious thought of every woman on hearing each grisly report of these assaults.

Sadly, the situation is not confined to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, so there is no ready escape. All over the world the incidents of violence against women, particularly in a sexual context, have spurred indignation and demands of greater action to protect and defend our female folk. Just take a look at the facts put out by the United Nations and Council of Europe, and you will get but a glimpse of the horrors that women are enduring in this world:

– One in three women is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime and one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape.

– Women aged 15 – 44 are more at risk of death and disability through domestic violence than through cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria.

– More than 130 million girls and women, mostly in Africa, have undergone female genital mutilation.

– Violence against women has high economic cost. A 2003 Report by the US Centre for Disease Control and prevention estimated the cost of intimate partner violence in the US alone at more than US $5.8 billion annually, $4 billion for direct medical and health care services, $1.8 billion for production losses (beat-up women must miss work).

– Trafficking in females is still prevalent, estimated to entrap between 2 and 4 million women, girls, infants even, every year. Much of this nefarious activity is connected with organized crime and is highly profitable bringing in between US$7 and $12 billion annually to the sexual traffickers.

The moral issues involved are well- established, yet such is the nature of our societies that even these do not seem to sufficiently spur us into concerted action to end this evil. But there is an economic factor as well, if it is dollars that “run things”, for violence against women in the long run impoverishes the individual, the family, the community and reduces the economic development of each nation.

It is against this backdrop that the international community has been forced by the actions of women, human rights campaigners and activists for social justice to not only sit up and take notice, but the ACT as well. On December, 1999 a major advance was made in the UN Declaration of November 25th as INTENATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. The choice of the date has its origin in the sacrifice of three women from the Dominican Republic, the Mirabal sisters, who were executed on November 25th 1960 for their political opposition to the murderers Trujillo dictatorship in their country. They did not die in vain for their brutal murders spurred opposition leading to Trujillo’s assassination less than one year after.

It is a pity though, that save for the consistent attempts by some of our female leaders (Nelcia Marshall/Hazell being Prominent) there is not enough consistent efforts by our women locally to press for action to put an end to this violence against our women. Marion House alone cannot be left with the burden of caring for the victims. Our goal must be to put a stop to all forms of such violence. UNIFEM (the United Nations Development Fund for women) has issued a call which is a platform for action in this regard. It calls for

– Prompt police response, health and legal services, free of charge, for poor victims of such violence against girls and women.

– The provision of shelters and safe options for women surviving or fleeing life-threatening situations.

– National hotlines open 24 hours a day for facilitating rapid and emergency responses.

– Basic front-line services for emergencies and immediate care of victims.

– Accountable, judicial and national action plans to end discrimination and promote equality.

I give my unqualified support. I condemn all the women abusers, rapist and violators of the rights of my sisters. And you, dear sisters, you can only gain RESPECT when you DEMAND IT by RESPECTING YOURSELVES.

“Violence against women persists in every country and is a pervasive violator of human rights and a major impediment to the achievement of gender equality”

(From Report of UN Secretary General an In-Depth Study on all forms of Violence vs Women, 2006)

Maybe it was coincidence but not an unhappy one at that, where women are concerned, that an alleged violator of women’s rights, was apprehended by police in the course of such violation and shot on November 25, 2008. That day has been proclaimed by the international community as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It was not surprising therefore that many Vincentians women breathed at least one sigh of relief on hearing the news, given what they have been going through these past few months.

Whilst having to cope, like the rest of us, with the stresses and strains of everyday life, skyrocketing cost of living being paramount, our mothers, daughters and sisters, were undergoing daily (especially nightly) psychological terror. The spate of brutal rapes and sexual assaults against women had our better halves living in mortal fear. This was especially so for women living without adult males in the house, particularly living alone. “Would I be next?”, was the obvious thought of every woman on hearing each grisly report of these assaults.

Sadly, the situation is not confined to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, so there is no ready escape. All over the world the incidents of violence against women, particularly in a sexual context, have spurred indignation and demands of greater action to protect and defend our female folk. Just take a look at the facts put out by the United Nations and Council of Europe, and you will get but a glimpse of the horrors that women are enduring in this world:

– One in three women is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime and one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape.

– Women aged 15 – 44 are more at risk of death and disability through domestic violence than through cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria.

– More than 130 million girls and women, mostly in Africa, have undergone female genital mutilation.

– Violence against women has high economic cost. A 2003 Report by the US Centre for Disease Control and prevention estimated the cost of intimate partner violence in the US alone at more than US $5.8 billion annually, $4 billion for direct medical and health care services, $1.8 billion for production losses (beat-up women must miss work).

– Trafficking in females is still prevalent, estimated to entrap between 2 and 4 million women, girls, infants even, every year. Much of this nefarious activity is connected with organized crime and is highly profitable bringing in between US$7 and $12 billion annually to the sexual traffickers.

The moral issues involved are well- established, yet such is the nature of our societies that even these do not seem to sufficiently spur us into concerted action to end this evil. But there is an economic factor as well, if it is dollars that “run things”, for violence against women in the long run impoverishes the individual, the family, the community and reduces the economic development of each nation.

It is against this backdrop that the international community has been forced by the actions of women, human rights campaigners and activists for social justice to not only sit up and take notice, but the ACT as well. On December, 1999 a major advance was made in the UN Declaration of November 25th as INTENATIONAL DAY FOR THE ELIMINATION OF VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. The choice of the date has its origin in the sacrifice of three women from the Dominican Republic, the Mirabal sisters, who were executed on November 25th 1960 for their political opposition to the murderers Trujillo dictatorship in their country. They did not die in vain for their brutal murders spurred opposition leading to Trujillo’s assassination less than one year after.

It is a pity though, that save for the consistent attempts by some of our female leaders (Nelcia Marshall/Hazell being Prominent) there is not enough consistent efforts by our women locally to press for action to put an end to this violence against our women. Marion House alone cannot be left with the burden of caring for the victims. Our goal must be to put a stop to all forms of such violence. UNIFEM (the United Nations Development Fund for women) has issued a call which is a platform for action in this regard. It calls for

– Prompt police response, health and legal services, free of charge, for poor victims of such violence against girls and women.

– The provision of shelters and safe options for women surviving or fleeing life-threatening situations.

– National hotlines open 24 hours a day for facilitating rapid and emergency responses.

– Basic front-line services for emergencies and immediate care of victims.

– Accountable, judicial and national action plans to end discrimination and promote equality.

I give my unqualified support. I condemn all the women abusers, rapist and violators of the rights of my sisters. And you, dear sisters, you can only gain RESPECT when you DEMAND IT by RESPECTING YOURSELVES

Renwick Rose is a  community activist and social commentator.

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