PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday said Government is reviewing the Domestic Violence Act as it seeks to send a message that “whether it unfolds internationally or locally, violence against women is unconscionable and must be stopped.”
“As a parliamentarian and as a woman, I call on my fellow world leaders and on all persons of influence locally and internationally, to take action to end all forms of violence against women and girls, the Prime Minister declared in her message to mark the International Day of Elimination of Violence against Women which is commemorated worldwide today.
Her view was supported by Gender, Youth and Child Development Minister Clifton De Couteau who disclosed he will have more to say today on matters raised by Persad-Bissessar at the opening of a seminar at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, Port-of-Spain.
In her message, Persad-Bissessar said this country “stands resolutely with the international community, to declare that violence against women and girls is a human rights violation and must not be tolerated.”
Observing that international statistics are alarming and estimate that “one in three women will be subject to violence in her lifetime” and one in three girls will be married as a child bride before the age of 18, the Prime Minister said, “Trafficking continues to ensnare millions of girls in modern-day slavery. Rape has become a tactic in warfare.”
In this country, Persad-Bissessar said records of the Police Service’s Crime and Problem Analysis Branch revealed that last year, there were 2,517 reported female victims of violent crimes in TT. Noting these crimes included murder, sexual offences , woundings and shootings,
Persad-Bissessar expressed concern that “many women who remain silent, afraid of the consequences of revealing the truth or believing that they themselves are the cause of the violence.”
Pledging that Government will continuously review and revise our legislation pertaining to the protection of women and girls; violence against women and girls and the rights of women and girls, the Prime Minister said, “Currently, our Domestic Violence Act is receiving the attention of Government, as we seek to ensure that every woman and girl within our nation, enjoys her fundamental human right to live free from violence.”
Noting this country has “an admirable track record and an enviable reputation internationally” regarding the promotion of the rights of women and girls, Persad-Bissessar stated, “We must not allow senseless violence, targeting our women, to tarnish this reputation.”
She challenged all citizens to not only protect and improve the lives of the women and girls with whom they are in contact “but also to engage our boys and men as partners in gender equality and respectful relationships.”
De Couteau agreed with Persad-Bissessar.
“These are legislative issues which have to put in place,” he said. Expressing concern that society adopts a “so what” attitude when cases of violence against women are reported, De Couteau said more must be done to get the victims to come forward while giving them the protection they require. He also said he was disturbed by attorney Lynette Seebaran-Suite’s disclosure at a panel discussion on Saturday about 10,000 applications by women in this country for protection orders.
In his message, United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said, “Violence against women and girls directly affects individuals while harming our common humanity.” Ban said he launched the “UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign” in 2008, in response to this global challenge.
Identifying the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women as one way to support the elimination of violence against women worldwide, Ban said, “While the demand for its grants has more than doubled in recent years, the amount it has been able to distribute has diminished by 60 percent.”
“I appeal to all partners to help meet this vast unmet demand for resources to further advance efforts to prevent and end violence against women and girls,” he added.
The objective of this fund is to help “respond to human rights violations and needs from physical safety to economic security.”