TODAY, the United Nations-dedicated Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women will be observed here. This day must not only mark a date to recount statistics and talk about mistreatment meted out to one of society’s vulnerable demographic, but it must also be accompanied by a redoubling of efforts to end the violence and sanction those who perpetrate it.

In a statement, the UN Women’s Multi-Country Office Caribbean Representative Alison McLean said work on preventing and ending violence against women at the global, regional and national levels shows that there is widespread impunity for sexual violence and rape. She said UN Women-supported research conducted here in the Caribbean in the past two years has reinforced that violence against women and girls (VAWG), including rape, is so entrenched and normalised that both men and women have a high tolerance for its manifestations.

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There have been well-known and often touted gains by women in public life;there have also been the introduction of laws, policies and initiatives to promote women’s equality.However,prevailing socio-cultural attitudes that perpetuate unequal and hierarchical power relations reinforcing notions of female subordination and male domination, militate against these gains and in turn, fuel VAWG.

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Violence against women has been declared a global pandemic and human rights violation. In the male-dominated world-view, the role of women in the family, home, relationships and society have been taken for granted; this taken-for-grantedness has led to the perpetuation of violence in several forms:from seeing women as physically and genetically inferior to men; objectification and promotion of violence against women in lyrics; unequal pay for equal work; domestic/spousal violence and limitations on opportunities to marginalisation in a nation’s decision-making processes; the list is long and angst numerous. Such acts of discrimination having been ingrained in the society, often come as a shock to even the well-meaning, when these are pointed out as acts of violence. Yet these impact the socio-economic well-being of women and girls, thereby impeding progress in areas such as poverty eradication, HIV/AIDS, peace and security.

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According to the World Health Organisation, violence is “the intentional use of physical force or power–threatened or actual–against oneself, another person, or against a group or community that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, mal-development, or deprivation.” Such as manifested in this classification is distinguished in four modes, namely: physical, sexual and psychological attacks and deprivation.

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This general definition of violence is based on the same World Report on Violence and Health;it is further divided into three sub-types according to the victim-perpetrator relationship. These are: 1) Self-directed violence in which the perpetrator and the victim are the same individual and is sub-divided into self-abuse and suicide; 2) Interpersonal violence which is between individuals, and is sub-divided into family and intimate-partner violence and community violence.The former category includes child maltreatment; intimate-partner violence; and elder abuse;the latter is broken down into acquaintance and stranger violence and includes youth violence; assault by strangers; violence related to property crimes; and violence in workplaces and other institutions; and 3) Collective violence which is committed by larger groups of individuals and can be sub-divided into social, political and economic violence.

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Every member of society, including woman and girl, man and boy, needs to be educated on what constitutes violence against women, since this is the first and most important step in moving to eliminate the violation. In this regard, it becomes even more important for women to play a leading role in shaping, influencing and developing laws and executing national policies and programmes;these would be shaped out of recognition of the problems and measures needed to eliminate the problems.

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In our society, women comprise more than half of the population and also make up more than 50 per cent of the electorate. Theirs is a potent voice and force with the power to change political fortunes and the circumstances of their lives and family; this is, however, achievable only in an atmosphere:one where there is an absence of fear, violence is eschewed, and women stand up and demand their rightful and equal place in society, be it in politics, government or non-governmental organisations, in the community, in the home, and towards self and each other.

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