Gender violence must be approached as men's issue, says Shadick
Stabroek News
November 25, 2003

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Men in our society should approach gender violence as a men's issue which cuts across socio-economic, racial and ethnic divisions and involves men of all ages, says Minister in the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, Bibi Shadick.

The minister in a message to mark International Day for the elimination of violence against women today urges: "If you have a brother, friend, colleague, classmate or teammate who is abusing his female partner or his children, please do not look the other way - speak out, do not remain silent."

She is also calling on men to have the courage to look inward, and question their own attitudes. "Please do not be defensive or try to rationalise when something you do or say ends up hurting someone else, especially those closest to you. I implore you to try hard to understand how your own attitudes and actions might inadvertently perpetuate sexism and violence, then please work toward changing them."

Violence is to be recognized as a developmental issue, Shadick notes, and it is a serious obstacle to the achievement of equality, development and peace. While recognizing that children and men can be and also are victims of violence and abuse, she points out that today's focus on women is clearly justified.

Citing statistics for this year up to November 15, the minister says it has been reported that 15 men had brutally murdered their wives or partners. And up to the end of October, 354 women had approached the NGO Help and Shelter directly for advice on matters relating to domestic violence and rape.

Shadick says further that violence is a cruel social phenomenon which in many cases is perpetuated through cultural patterns linked to language, race, religion, music and the media, for example. She describes it also as a condition in which women are held in subordinate positions by men.

"There is urgent need for specific programmes to educate both females and males as to the causes and effects of violence generally, and more particularly violence against women," Shadick states.

However, she acknowledges that given the nature of the problem, the task is a huge one for her ministry and its sub-unit the Women's Affairs Bureau. "I would therefore urge all organizations, government and non-governmental to work together meaningfully to promote the dignity of women and respect for them as worthwhile contributors to our nation's well-being."

She says the ministry continues to offer through its Difficult Circumstances Department, legal and other assistance to victims of violence on a daily basis.

Shadick notes that in Guyana women and girls experience all forms of abuse, physical, sexual and psychological, which cuts across lines of income, class, race and culture. Especially vulnerable are girls who are minors, elderly women, indigenous women, women in detention, women with disabilities, women living in poverty and women who are destitute.

Noting that Guyana had enacted the Domestic Violence Act of 1995, she observes that monitoring its effectiveness has indicated that implementation has not been satisfactory. "While we continue to mount programmes to increase women's knowledge of their rights and to promote greater use of the Act, we recognize that the orientation of the practitioners within the judicial system and law enforcement agencies need to be revisited," Shadick adds.