President Paula-Mae Weekes has lamented the spate of violence against women in Trinidad and Tobago as she called on men to reflect on their behaviour and seek help if needed.
In her message commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women observed yesterday, President Weekes noted several recent incidents of women being killed in T&T and said there must be a zero-tolerance approach to gender-based violence.
“Although we in Trinidad and Tobago have been having conversations about violence against women in our society for decades, a cursory glance at some of the headlines over the past few weeks would reveal that violence against women continues unabated,” she said.
“Many experts, clerics, politicians and social media commentators have put forward their views and suggestions. Conferences have convened and marches and rallies have been held. Yet one in three women continue to experience intimate partner violence in Trinidad and Tobago, a statistic that is also reflected at the global level.
“These women—daughters, sisters, mothers, friends, beloved relatives and most significantly, human beings—had their lives cruelly snuffed out at the hands of people who, according to one grieving family member, could not walk away. There are also those who fall victim to strangers or casual acquaintances. When will enough prove to be enough? How many more families must be deprived of their loved ones?”
President Weekes called for more to be done to combat gender-based violence.
“How many more women must lose their lives, health, happiness and dignity to insecure, dysfunctional and predatory individuals before we at all levels of society adopt a zero-tolerance policy where we acknowledge that it’s not ‘cute’ when boys harass girls at school and there are mechanisms put in place to report and deal with the offenders; where neighbours take their suspicions to the police; where workplaces take sexual harassment seriously and co-workers rally around their colleagues who may exhibit signs of abuse; where prompt and empathetic police investigation is the norm and the courts provide justice for victims?” she questioned.
The resident noted the country had joined together to advocate against violence against women in the wake of two chilling femicides last year. She said advocacy should not end now, especially when there has been an uptick in domestic violence cases during the Covid-19 pandemic.
President Weekes said violence against women can be eradicated but requires a multi-pronged approach with the co-operation of every sector of society.
“Support groups for victims should be well-resourced and funded and the police, who have made laudable strides in their approaches to dealing with gender-based violence must continue to be trained and evaluated. Survivors have to be supported and protected, the eyes and ears of the public alert and citizens unafraid to report suspected cases of abuse. No longer can we hide behind the old colloquial saying ‘stay out of man and woman business’.”
Additionally, the president said men must reflect on their own behaviours as they are the main perpetrators of gender-based violence.
“(They) must acknowledge their role in perpetuating abuse, challenge negative stereotypes which normalise aggression and violence in men and boys, and take action to correct harmful attitudes and behaviours towards women,” she said.
“There can be no solution to gender-based violence without the active participation of men. Age-appropriate conversations should start as early as primary school where boys can be taught how to deal with rejection and their emotions, understand the concept of consent, and learn that gender-based violence refers not only to physical abuse, but also sexual, emotional and financial exploitation. Even where men do not physically harm women, they may be perpetrators of more subtle forms.
“Today is an opportunity for men to reflect and ask themselves some pertinent questions. Do I try to control my partner’s finances? Do I constantly belittle, degrade or humiliate them? Do I isolate my partner from her family? Do I make sexually suggestive remarks or unwanted advances to my friends or colleagues? If yes, then what am I prepared to do about it? Self-awareness and seeking the necessary help are key to dealing with and ultimately ending violence against women,” the president said.