Violence Against Women and Children
The Caribbean Is One Nation.
Our sister’s keeper
|Trinidad and Tobago National Flag|
Last week we marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Here in Trinidad and Tobago, it was also a week in which a 26-year-old pregnant woman died of a heart attack; a cocaine addict with a three-week-old baby appeared in court; a battered 18-year-old woman was featured on our front page; and a Tobago secondary school pupil who, having been gang-raped at a football match in October, was publicly embarrassed by a school official. As if these were not tragic enough, the week ended with the horrific discovery of the body of missing six-year-old Keyana Cumberbatch who had been raped and murdered before being stashed in a barrel of clothes at her home.
All these incidents, in different ways, highlight the ongoing challenges faced by women and girls in this country. Worrying levels of maternal mortality, single motherhood, domestic abuse, rape and murder paint a dismal picture of the conditions affecting the female population. At the same time, they contrast sharply with the consistent reports of female mobility and success in every sphere of national life.
Trinidad and Tobago can be proud of the progress of its women, many of whom have made their mark as high-performers in sport, education, the corporate world, politics and civic life. In the face of all this progress, however, women remain under threat of the age-old scourge of rape and domestic abuse. To combat these crimes against women, T&T has enacted stronger legislation and enhanced support systems. The results, however, remain unimpressive. So long as one woman or girl is raped or abused we will have to accept that our society is not safe enough for our female population. While Parliament, police and the State have their responsibilities in doing so, there is a role for each one of us.
We can help by being more alert and perceptive about the signs of distress and anxiety in others, especially children and women, more willing to listen, more supportive of those enduring testing times, and more informed about the resources and avenues available for helping victims of abuse.
Our institutions, too, are critical in making this country safer and more supportive of our girls and women. The memory of the police officer who refused to lend a raincoat to a naked victim of rape remains a burning memory of shame. Ditto for the school official who failed the entire education system by embarrassing a schoolgirl who had endured the trauma of gang-rape.
In 2013, there is no longer any excuse for attitudes to rape and domestic abuse that belong to the Dark Ages. As a people we must commit to setting our faces firmly against both and reject any suggestion that crimes against women and girls are in any way justifiable. All of us, men and women, girls and boys, must rise to the responsibility of being our sister’s keeper.
(From The Trindad Express, Editorial 12/02/2013)