Guyanese women experience interpersonal violence at higher rates than global average – WGEC

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Women & Gender Equality Commission calls on all to redouble their efforts in working to reduce Gender Based Violence.

The Women & Gender Equality Commission (WGEC) joins with the millions of people worldwide in commemorating the 16 Days of activism against Gender-Based Violence. November 25 to December 10th.

The United Nations’ theme recognize that violence against women and girls is a human rights violation that has been perpetuated for decades.

The observance of International Women’s Year 1975 by the United Nations and the subsequent actions by governments globally to give effect to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women New York (CEDAW) has reinforced what was always known – domestic violence is pervasive.

The decision by the United Nations to recognize November 25th in honor of the three Mirabel sisters who were murdered by the Trujillo regime in 1960 created a catalyst for organizations to use this observance to bring attention to the systemic violation of women and girls.

The first UN world Conference on women in 1980 and the three subsequent conferences heard the powerful voices of women all over the world affirming that Gender Based Violence is a violation of their human right which is unacceptable, intolerable and unjustifiable.

In Guyana prior to 1996 Gender Based Violence was considered a family affair. The research undertaken by Danns/Shivpersaud in 1989 affirmed that two out of every five women in Guyana had experienced some type of violence.

The passing of the Domestic Violence Legislation in 1996 provided some respite to this problem where violence moved out of the realm of the private sphere to that of a criminal offence.

Twenty four years later Guyana continues to harbor attitudes that perpetuate violence against women and girls. Guyanese women experience interpersonal violence at significantly higher rates than the global average of one in three women.

In analyzing this problem one has to recognize that Guyana inherited its legal system from European colonists who believed that women were inferior to men. The law is not gender neutral but retains a deep structure that is patriarchal. This is the elephant in the room which needs to be addressed.

Patriarchy is a worldview that presupposes the superiority of males over females and perpetuates such a belief system in social institutions. Men have been given a variety of social privileges such as personal and political power over women, including legal, economic and sexual advantages.

Violence has long been the weapon of choice to assert one’s real self-worth within patriarchal culture. The basic physiological motive, or cause of violent behavior is the wish to ward off or eliminate the feeling of shame and humiliation and replace it with its opposite the feeling of pride.

The WGEC calls on all decision makers in the various institutions of Guyana to denounce the culture of tolerance for violence against women and girls by ensuring they take the requisite actions to name and shame those guilty of perpetuating such actions. Public pressure is needed to help change the attitude of citizens and public officials to one of zero tolerance of Gender Based Violence (GBV).

Sufficient resources should be allocated towards providing assistance and remedies for victims. There is a dire need for safe spaces for victims of domestic abuse for counselling, and for medical and legal aid.

There is need to adequately enforce the laws that protect women and they must be able to access justice.

The current culture of devaluing women through advertising and music which belittles women and advocates violence must be brought to an end. Pressure is needed to use the existing laws to put a stop to activities that are disrespectful of women.

We call on parents and care givers to re-examine the way they socialize their sons by ensuring that negative stereotype such as “boys will be boys” and “boys must not cry” are discouraged. Both father and mother should play a meaningful role in the lives of their children.

The Women & Gender Equality Commission calls on all Guyanese to redouble their efforts in working together to reduce Gender Based Violence.