The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women issued by the UN General Assembly in 1993, defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
The adverse psychological, sexual and reproductive health consequences of VAWG affect women at all stages of their life and we must act to prevent this from happening not only in our homes and communities but our entire nation. The effects of Gender Based Violence leave many permanent physical and physiological scars on our women and girls.
In Trinidad and Tobago, the high incidence of violence against women remains a cause for serious concern. Further, there are disturbing reports of the exploitation of female Venezuelan migrants. It is heartening to see that law enforcement have taken a tough stance on this, uncovering human trafficking rings involving these migrant women and well as children, and arresting perpetrators.
Our women are subjected daily to verbal and physical assault, with cases going unreported due to fear of victimization or further violence. Hundreds of women have been abused, whether physically or psychologically and in the worst case they have even been murdered in cold blood. Just this weekend we saw a mother killed along with her son. It has almost become a regular scenario, as sad and upsetting it is, to read about the murder of a woman in our nation today.
Our daughters, our sisters, our mothers, our grandmothers, our women have been scarred and traumatized by violence.
Earlier this year the Opposition introduced a motion in the Parliament through Fyzabad MP, Dr Bodoe calling on the Government, who controls all the state machinery to introduce more urgent steps immediately to curb this assault on our nation’s women.
In addition to this, during my tenure as Prime Minister, several initiatives to empower women were undertaken, to help them escape abusive relationships. Under this present Government, nothing is being done to help these women.
The 2019 theme for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is ‘Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape’. As in previous years, this year’s International Day will mark the launch of 16 days of activism that will conclude on 10 December 2019, which is International Human Rights Day.
Violence against women continues to be an obstacle to achieving equality, development, peace as well as to the fulfilment of women and girls’ human rights. All in all, the promise of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – to leave no one behind – cannot be fulfilled without putting an end to violence against women and girls.
We must stand in support of the women who are bravely speaking out against their attackers, and for those who cannot, or who may be reluctant, we need to be their voices and demand action.
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, SC, MP
Leader of the Opposition