Oct 12, 2015 News
– calls on Govt for swift action
As Guyana joins the rest of the world in celebrating Domestic Violence Awareness Month, calls are being made for a more comprehensive approach to the issue, not only on the Government’s part but also key stakeholders.
These calls were made by the locally based non-governmental organisation, The Caribbean Voice, which stressed that gender-based violence is far too prevalent in Guyana.
In an issued statement, the NGO opined that Guyanese women are continually subjected to widespread violence, which prevents them from enjoying other constitutionally-ensured rights. Noting that different surveys throughout the years have highlighted the serious plight in Guyana, Caribbean Voice said that the figures all show that gender inequity remains an issue.
“In effect, all of this stacks up to gender inequity premised on gender-based violence and abuse, in which children also often end up being victimized,” Caribbean Voice said.
It continued, “The reality also is that in Guyana, domestic violence continues to be seen as personal, private or a family matter. Its purpose and consequences are often hidden, and domestic violence is frequently portrayed as justified punishment or discipline in what is still a male-centric society and one in which children are still to be seen but not heard.”
The NGO further said that, in many instances, financial dependency on abusers keep many women locked in their abusive relationships, thus leading to Guyana’s reinforced patriarchal and social structure.
Additionally, the NGO noted that the abuse is not limited to any specific group. Rather, it said, “Spousal abuse cuts across ethnicity, status, social standing and other ‘divides’, which would seem to suggest that such acts are somewhat normative and thus very few, including some victims, would see anything wrong with abusive behaviour, often until it is too late.” The NGO also pointed out that in some cases, domestic violence has become recurrent, passing down from one generation to another.
Caribbean Voice emphasised that there is an urgent need for a serious action plan to counter gender-based violence. Recently, Minister of Public Health Dr. George Norton also highlighted the issue and similarly noted the need.
“The Caribbean Voice hopes that Dr. Norton’s assertion of ‘…the need for a national action plan on violence and the introduction of educational and enforcement initiatives to eliminate this scourge’, will quickly be translated into action and implementation with the necessary educational and enforcement measures built in.”
Caribbean Voice also noted the agreement between Argentina and Guyana to beef up Guyana’s Forensic Laboratory to conduct DNA tests and deemed it a “commendable step”, especially when one considers the role it can play in solving murders related to gender-based violence.
“Also indications from the Ministry of Social Protection that gender-based violence will loom large on its agenda is welcomed and it is hope that within this context, teeth will finally be given to both the Domestic Violence Act and Sexual Offences Act,” the NGO added.
Meanwhile, the NGO had suggestions of its own on how to tackle gender-based violence. Among the suggestions are increased equitable investments in programs and support for girls and young women; ensuring all medical institutions have adequate amounts of rape kits as well as capacities for DNA tests; the expansion of school-based sexual education programs; increased participation by women to formulate solutions to daily challenges faced; and encouraging education, particularly among girls and women.
Meanwhile, Caribbean Voice opined that an increase in the available personnel to deal with gender-based and related issues would go a long way in attacking the problem. The NGO noted that gender-based violence has a direct connect with suicide and called again for school counselors throughout Guyana.
The NGO also called for the placement of more Social Workers in Guyana as well as Psychologists at all major medical facilities. Additionally, Caribbean Voice opined that there is a need for sensitivity training to be expanded to all members of the Guyana Police Force and healthcare personnel, while it believed that the local suicide hotline should be expanded to include issues related to gender-based violence. Furthermore, the NGO called for the establishment of support and safety networks for abused women so as to cushion any economic and social fallout of separating from their abusers. Caribbean Voice emphasised that victims must not become imprisoned by economic dependency and helplessness, especially where children factor into the equation.
However, increased personnel face increased risks for these personnel, and the NGO stressed that “caregivers all need to be cared for”. It emphasised that those who work to eliminate gender-based violence and related issues such as suicide prevention, alcoholism and drug addiction must be able to do so in relative safety. It also noted that incentives must be provided to centrally based NGOs to expand their work to rural communities.
Meanwhile, Caribbean Voice emphasised that while this month will obviously see increased focus on domestic violence and promises to tackle it, the issue must not “slip to the back burner” once October is over. It stressed that gender-based violence must remain an ongoing focus of local NGOs. It went on to applaud the efforts of NGOs that have been placed gender-based violence in the forefront while urging other NGOs to include the issue into their focuses.
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