Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange, is appealing to women involved in abusive relationships to seek help through the Bureau of Gender Affairs (BGA), for which she has portfolio responsibility.
“We have systems in place and there are help call numbers… where women who are in distress can seek support,” she said. The BGA’s numbers are 876-754-8577-8/876-929-2997.
“I say to any woman who is in an abusive relationship and is worried that she cannot leave because she has nowhere to go… no friend… no family… call us. We are ready to give any woman the support she needs to leave an abusive man and get on with her life,” she added.
The Minister reaffirmed the Government’s commitment to providing services and support to help women in abusive environments, noting that two additional national shelters are being established this year, to bring the number in operation to three. Some $86 million has been budgeted for the project.
Ms. Grange was addressing the opening session of a Policy Meeting on Masculinity in the Caribbean, at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Regional Headquarters in St. Andrew on Friday (April 12).
The event was co-hosted by UWI Mona and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).
Ms. Grange said the numerous reports of violence against women and girls “is cause for concern,” and raises questions about the psyche of the country’s males.
Citing the two most recent incidents, she stressed that “these acts of brutality must stop”.
“They are unacceptable and we must do all we can to ensure that the perpetrators are caught and punished under the law. We must protect and provide redress for the victims,” she added.
Ms. Grange said that domestic violence can be curtailed, “but it requires all of us to end [it]”.
“I believe that in all cases of intimate partner abuse, someone… somewhere… knows or suspects what is happening but has refused to do or say anything about it,” she argued.
Ms. Grange contended that domestic violence “is not a private matter” but rather an issue concerning the wider society.
“It’s not a one-off thing. It will not go away and needs [our collective] intervention,” she added.
IDB’s Caribbean Country Manager, Therese Turner Jones, in her remarks said that the incidence of gender-based violence across the region is among the highest globally, and pointed to the need for wide-scale stakeholder dialogue to deal with the issue.
“We need to talk about it in a way that is healthy, because we are in a very toxic social environment. That’s an indisputable fact, and we need to come to terms with why this is, and what we can do to make our societies safer and healthier,” she added.
For his part, UWI Mona’s Deputy Principal, Professor Ian Boxhill, emphasised the need for resocialisation of the society’s males to effectively address domestic violence, adding that “until we eradicate gender-based violence, all other areas of progress remain threatened”.
“There is no room for sustainable development and truly resilient societies without a clearly defined outlook on the state of masculinity in the Caribbean, and accompanying social and economic policies to support the changes needed,” he said.
The meeting, which was attended by a wide cross section of regional stakeholders, featured presentations and discussions on the impact of hegemonic masculinity and actions to address systemic issues.
WRITTEN BY: DOUGLAS MCINTOSH
PHOTO: ADRIAN WALKER