Guyana Chronicle
November 25, 2003

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GINA -- "Not A Minute More" is a call to Governments worldwide to work towards eliminating all forms of violence, more especially violence against women.

Guyana has declared zero tolerance for violence against women.

According to Minister Bibi Shadick, Minister within the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security in her speech for International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, national efforts will be directed to bringing about an attitudinal change for a better understanding of the cultural and traditional practices that promote violence.

Violence against women is a worldwide phenomenon.

There are a number of known cases worldwide in which women experience violent situations from a very tender age, because of their gender.

Violence against women constitutes a violation of the rights and fundamental freedoms of women and impairs or nullifies their enjoyment of those rights and freedoms.

According to the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), every minute in the United Kingdom, calls are made for assistance in domestic violence, every 15 seconds in the United States of America a woman is battered, while a woman is raped every 23 seconds in South Africa.

Although we are not aware of the statistics on the local scene, there are a number of women that are being violated psychologically, sexually and physical in this country.

Reports from the Guyana Police Force show 627 complaints of domestic violence made in 2001, and 591 by mid 2002.

Minister Shadick said "speak out, do not remain silent" to those persons with relatives or friends that are practicing violent actions against their female partners.

According to Shadick the ones especially vulnerable are girls, elderly women, indigenous women, women in detention and women with disabilities.

In 1999, when the Reform of the Guyana Constitution was completed, a recommendation was made for non-discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender, and marital status.

Guyana is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

Further, to institutionalize protecting women's rights in the country, a number of Commissions were established to deal with women's issues. These include the Integrity Commission, the Commission for Persons with Disabilities, the Commission for the Elderly, the Commission for the Rights of the Child and the Family Life Commission.

The Help and Shelter, the Help and Shelter Crisis Centre, and the Women's Affairs Bureau are some of the leading institutions that address the issue of violence and women.

Others include the Probation and Family Welfare Department of the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, and Lifeline Counseling Services.

The issue of domestic violence is high on the agenda for the Government of Guyana and over 40 non-governmental organisations. These groups are also working on implementing the Domestic Violence Act.

Over 10,000 copies of the "Household Guide to the Domestic Violence Act" will also be distributed to rural and hinterland areas.

The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Caribbean Community Gender Equality Fund (CCGEF) and UNIFEM have hosted campaigns for a life free of violence which was well supported.

Other accomplishments include the involvement of Hinterland women in a workshop hosted by Help and Shelter and Red Thread, and distribution of a bi-lingual booklet on domestic violence and alcohol abuse

So far, more qualified social workers have been employed with the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security to deal with domestic violence. The Ministry also has qualified social workers accompanying victims to court to address matters of domestic violence.

Over $3.9M was expended on the training of police officers to deal with Domestic Violence. Presently training is being facilitated for the members of the Guyana Defence Force

The international violence against women campaign began in 1960 after two sisters were assassinated in the Dominican Republic for their political activism.

Subsequently that day was declared International Day for the Elimination of All Forms of Violence Against Women.

A release from UNIFEM states that the "Not A Minute More" is an opportunity to highlight important strides made in the fight against violence and acknowledges the critical role of global partnerships between Governments, the United Nations, women's networks and civil society... to address that issue.

It also provides an opportunity to remind the international community that its commitment and action to end gender-based violence must be intensified to meet future challenges.

Through UNIFEM, solutions to eliminate violence will be made available to these Governments.