Women are chief perpetrators of violence against children

Stabroek News
May 16, 2000

Women commit the majority of violent acts against children and the elderly in Guyana, according to the findings of a study on domestic violence against women and issues of reproductive and sexual health.

The study was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank and was executed by the Red Thread Women's Development Programme in conjunction with Canadian Dr Linda Peake.

One of the three definitions for domestic as in domestic violence, was that it conjured up an image of violence against adult women by men. However, according to the findings, concern for violence against children required the researchers to pay close attention to the role played by women in domestic violence. It was discovered that it was women who commit the majority of violent acts against children and the elderly in Guyana.

The study found that unlike most other groups in the Caribbean, including women's organisations and professional social workers, Guyanese took violence against children to include what was normally considered acceptable discipline. The boundary between abuse and discipline (acceptable and unacceptable behaviour) varied culturally and geographically in Guyana, the study found.

Seventy per cent of the women said children should be punished. Almost a third thought children should be punished by hitting, while 26.2% believed that privileges should be withdrawn and 18% thought they should be grounded.

Of the 40% of women who responded to the question on what age children should be punished by hitting, about 27% thought toddlers and pre-school ages were the most appropriate. The main reason given for hitting children was misbehaviour.

Red Thread, in the report of the findings of the study, opposed the notion that corporal punishment was an effective and acceptable method of discipline as against the widely accepted view of many in Guyana and the wider Caribbean that it was a form of punishment rather than abuse.

Over 30% of the respondents claimed they had experienced abuse as children. The study found that approximately eight of every ten cases of childhood abuse was committed either by mothers or female relatives.