Caribbean women beaters

by Tony Best
Barbados Nation
March 8, 2000

“Bajan men like to beat women.”

That’s why Barbados, like the rest of the Caribbean, is suffering from a major social problem: violence and abuse of women, according to the United States State Department.

A report from the department said that from the Bahamas, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago to Jamaica and Belize, the problem was the same: women were being physically and sexually abused by their spouses.

In its annual report on global human rights conditions, the State Department told members of the House of Representatives and the Senate in Washington that women in Barbados who were victims of sexual assaults, domestic violence, incest and rape were “often reluctant to report such incidents” to the authorities.

The report noted, however, that several initiatives were under way to help deal with the problem, including public and private counselling services for victims of domestic violence, rape and incest; restraining orders against men who abuse women; and almost $400000 being spent by Government on a new shelter for battered women.

The Business and Professional Women’s Club, an affiliate of the National Organisation of Women, the report said, was running a crisis centre, employing 30 training counselors, and was offering legal and medical referral services, and has a hotline for women who wished to talk about their problems but prefered to remain anonymous.

But there was a stumbling block in the efforts to confront domestic violence and sexual abuse. According to the report, the lack of sentencing guidelines for judges and magistrates was the reason why men who were petty thieves were often slapped with stiffer punishment than those who committed incest.

In addition, men found gulity of having sex with their daughters or sisters were often given “lesser sentences” than if they had been convicted of rape.

On a brighter and more positive note, the report said Bajan women “actively participate in all aspects national life and are well represented at all levels”.