Guyana Chronicle Editorial, November 18, 2018: THIS publication has repeatedly highlighted the need for initiatives and programmes to fight the pervasive social malady known as gender-based or domestic violence. The Government of Guyana, which obviously shares the concern, continues to work towards eradicating the problem.
First Lady Mrs. Sandra Granger has expressed the view shared by government and experts on the subject; the First Lady said, “It is critical that empirical research is conducted into the root causes of violence in our society, and particularly gender-based violence, so we can analyse and determine how it may be addressed and eliminated through government-stakeholder action.”
Following up on this approach to the problem, a new initiative is set to begin on November 25. The campaign called, ‘16 Days of Activism’ is a collaborative effort among the government, the non-governmental organisation known as The Caribbean Voice and the United Nations Women’s Initiative. The campaign which aims to reduce acts of gender-based violence in Guyana, will conduct education, sensitisation and solution-oriented sessions during the 16 days of planned activities.
Gender-based violence is a major problem in Guyana, with incidents of violence against women having increased by some 14.2 per cent over the last six years. Statistics show that there is a geographic component to the problem, with the highest number of crimes being committed in Essequibo Islands-West Demerara, Demerara-Mahaica, and the East Berbice-Corentyne regions. Those three regions alone account for three quarters of all reports.
In August 2018, at the opening of the 20th biennial convention of the National Congress of Women, President Granger said, “Unless we take concerted action to eliminate violence against women, we will never remove the scourge of inequality. People will not find it even necessary to consider providing equal access for girlchildren to go to school. We need to deal with this problem of violence against girls and women. It is not easy; it is not just sexual violence. It is physical violence as well. It is chopping and killing, murder…It is the daily subjugation and suppression of women…”
In addition to short-duration programmes such as 16 Days of Activism, Guyana’s government also recognises the need for long-term approaches and international cooperation and collaboration, as part of a comprehensive, holistic methodology.
In March, the UK’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security 2018-2022 was launched in Guyana. This international strategy seeks to reduce and eventually eliminate gender-based violence – particularly against women – by employing scientifically sound approaches, as part of the UK’s efforts to meet its declared international objectives and obligations in Guyana.
The five-year National Action Plan is built on four pillars: prevention of conflict and all forms of violence against women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations; participation with women equally with men with gender equality being promoted in decision-making processes on peace and security at all levels; protection and promotion of women’s and girls’ rights in conflict situations; and relief and recovery with women and girls’ specific needs met.
At the launch of that programme, First Lady Mrs. Sandra Granger lamented, “It seems not a single day passes without a report of someone being raped, brutalised, or murdered, usually by an intimate partner or previously intimate partner.”
In his remarks at that event, British High Commissioner to Guyana Gregg Quinn said that, “globally, one in three women are beaten or sexually abused in her lifetime.” He commented that, “beating your wife or girlfriend does not make you a man; it makes you a coward.”
Domestic violence is a persistent and major problem throughout the world and its effects are known. According to the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA), “Domestic violence damages the prospects for economic and social development of every country, not just the lives of the victims.”
Regarding the major cause of domestic violence, CAFRA said, “domestic violence has been described as “systemic and structural, a mechanism of patriarchal control of women that is built on male superiority and female inferiority, sex-stereotyped roles and expectations, and economic, social, and political predominance of men and dependency of women.”
CAFRA noted, “The 1993 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women and the 1994 Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belem do Pará) were developed to explicitly guarantee women’s right to live free from violence.”
Considering the fact that Guyana is known to have a major domestic-violence problem, and being signatories to numerous international treaties and conventions to eradicate the scourge, and most importantly, knowing that gender-based or domestic violence is a crime against the humanity of women, the initiatives, programmes, and various undertakings should not only be continued, but expanded and intensified.