Despite interventions, violence against women on the rise
Forum calls for international response
Stabroek News
July 3, 2002

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The Organisation of American States' (OAS) Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) recently concluded the last of four sub-regional meetings to gauge violence against women in the Americas and propose likely solutions on the issue.

At a press conference in the Savannah Suite of Le Meridien Pegasus, Executive Secretary of CIM, Carmen Lomellin, said the issue was her organisation's "number one priority," and that the June 20-21 forum represented a follow-up on research conducted.

Lomellin told members of the media that a report of the findings of the meeting - attended by delegates from 31 countries - was to be published at its conclusion. The findings would also be presented to experts in the area of gender research, gender affairs and violence against women. Recommendations would also be presented to member states, international partners, women's organisations and other non-governmental bodies.

According to Lomellin, the forum examined the progress achieved in relation to the effect of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence against Women.

In addition, a number of current challenges in dealing with the issue were also identified and these included the need for adequate financing and the lack of awareness among women of their basic human rights.

The CIM representative underscored the importance of addressing the issue from a mental standpoint, education programmes, legislation and appropriate training of law enforcement authorities and judicial officials.

Speaking at the press conference, Minister of Social Development for St Vincent and the Grenadines, Girlyn Miguel, said that she had worked extensively with the education sector, NGOs and women's groups. She said that her ministry operates a department, which pays special attention to the treatment of women. She noted that particularly in the Caribbean, there were numerous women breadwinners, because of the male absenteeism for which there existed a variety of reasons.

Meanwhile, representative of the United Nations Economic Cooperation for Latin American and Caribbean (UNECLAC) countries, Roberta Clarke, indicated that recently there has been an increase of violence despite the availability of hotlines, shelters and other forms of advocacy. She pointed out that despite a lot of work being done in the Caribbean over the past ten to 15 years the problem has expanded.

Clarke said, "...the region is in a vulnerable position in a macroeconomic sense." She opined that its macroeconomic vulnerability, alcoholism and drug addiction, stress and poverty combined with changing gender roles, gender stereotyping, and a lack of balance of power between the man and the woman had contributed to the rise in violence and what could be deemed an "inexplicable anger."

Domestic murders, incest, rape and child murders are on the rise at alarming rates, Clarke said. She revealed that culture was partly responsible for catalysing the violence, noting that several calypso and reggae songs depicted women in a negative light.

The delegates told the media that the need for a multi-sectoral approach and data gathering has been established through the forum. There is need for international organisations to work with schools, parents - especially mothers and their sons - and clinics. Early empowerment of women and girls is also necessary.

Lomellin informed that there were police stations in Brazil set up specifically to deal with domestic violence and emphasised that it was not a women's issue but an international predicament.

Miguel implored that everyone including governments, the media and other social organisation should become involved in the fight against violence against women and in general.

Other international organisations responsible for co-sponsorship of the conference are the Canadian International Development Agency and United Nations Development Programme.