The head of UWI's Gender and Development Studies Institute is urging government to activate a national response to deal with the crisis of domestic violence in this country.
This, as the latest statistics collated by Dr Gabrielle Hosein and her team show that one in three women in T&T is a survivor of intimate partner violence, and that roughly 10,000 women are living in domestic violence situations.
She says it is time the country make a declaration that domestic violence—and especially violence against women—is unacceptable.
She says Government is taking too long to put in place a “national prevention strategy”, which can comprehensively address the crisis.
“A National Prevention Strategy takes place across the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Social Services and the Office of the Prime Minister, and other related ministries,” she states. “It is absolutely irresponsible that there is no National Prevention Strategy in place, because we do not have a coordinated approach, and we must have one with immediate effect. In fact,” she argues, “Government should be saying something now about this crisis.”
Dr Hosein, says social and religious belief systems about the role of men and women, and the power men are supposed to exert over women, lie at the heart of intimate partner violence.
She believes the time has come for the country to take a definitive stand on violence against women, and declare that it is unacceptable behaviour… And she's challenging men to take the lead.
“We need to call on men in explicit ways to be their brothers’ keepers. It is time that men start putting their foot down,” she asserts, “and start telling their brothers, ‘listen, domestic violence is absolutely not tolerable’. It is time that men speak out in society on this.”
She adds: “And not men only. But it is time that men speak out in collaboration with women, so we can see that this is what a new society is built on.”
The UWI academic observes that far too often, the immediate response to a case of domestic violence is to demand that the victim—whether her or him—is to tell them to learn how to defend her/himself, and to choose better intimate partners.
According to Dr Hosein, the responsibility actually lies with the perpetrator, to not engage in violent behaviour at all.
“We need to examine what is going to stop perpetration of domestic violence,” she says. “What is available at the level of Social Services for [domestic violence] perpetration to be dealt with at earlier stages, rather than at the stages when it comes to murder? We need to keep in focus the fact that women do not have responsibility for preventing their own death.”
Dr Gabrielle Hosein says gender based violence and intimate partner violence—based on recent research conducted by her team—is a response or an act to reproduce women’s subordination. She explains that increasingly, such violence is an act of backlash against women’s empowerment.
“Remember, women are being given very empowering messages in society, while men continue to be fed traditional messages,” she points out. “Men are unable to deal with the kinds of women’s empowerment we’re seeing because they are not getting the messages about what it means to be a man in these kinds of contexts.”
She adds: “Traditional masculinities also do not enable men to deal with their feelings and communicate about them in ways that allow them to be validated, to be expressed and to not turn into anger. We have a lot of work to do around men and masculinity and transforming masculinities,” Dr Hosein says, “as well as giving men the options to not have a need turn to these kinds of [violent] ways of seeking solutions.”
Story by JESSIE-MAY VENTOUR