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International day for the elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls 2018

Violence against women and girls also referred to as Gender based Violence continues to be one of the most persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today that remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it (UN 2018).

Gender Based violence is referred to any type of violence meted to an individual simply because of their gender.

Violence against women and girls manifests itself in various forms, it can be of a physical, sexual, psychological, social, economic, cultural and as well as systemic nature. Often times greater emphasis is placed on the physical aspect of violence however the other forms of violence have an equal and at times a more devastating impact.

To shed light on the issues of Violence against Women and Girls the United Nations Women’s Committee designated the 25th of November as the International day for the elimination of Violence Against Women & Girls. November 25th begins the 16 days of activism and ends on December 10th with World Human Rights Day. This year’s observation is under the theme “Orange the World # HearMeToo”. Under the theme Orange the World: #HearMeToo, the UNiTE partners are encouraged to host events with local, national, regional and global women’s movements, survivor advocates and women human rights defenders and create opportunities for dialogue between activists, policy-makers and the public(UN 2018).

This year,  here on Sint Maarten there are several activities surrounding the observation. The main purpose of these activities is raising awareness and to help to community to take action against this surge. Women’s Desk, SXM Women Strong and the SXM Youth Council are collaborating to host an activity for this year’s observation. Awareness will be raised in the form of a debate competition under the theme “UNiTE To End Violence Against Women & Girls #HearMeToo”. The moot for the debate is “Religion & Culture are obstructing the elimination of Gender Based Violence in the Caribbean”.  The debate is a little different in that, the debaters comprise of women, men and the youth from a wide cross section of the community.

Why a debate? The debate will give the ordinary person a voice and to create an opportunity for individual research on the topic and to present their arguments in such a way that it can bring about an awareness. In addition, it is also a great opportunity to foster mentorship and a good working relationship between the genders on such a sensitive topic. Over the years there has been several interventions to deal with the issue if violence against women and girls, despite the tremendous work done, 1-3 women would experience some form of violence throughout their life time.

With that said, it means there is a need for efforts to be refocused and a shift in perspective needs to take place. A shift in behaviour and attitude needs to take place to be able to eliminate Gender Based Violence. How can that be done? How is our attitude and behaviour influencing Gender Based Violence? Is it that our attitude and behaviour is shaped by our Culture and belief? Are we creature of our culture and belief system?

As an individual we belong to a community, we are shaped by that community, that community is shaped by certain values, norms and mores. These values and norms are often influenced by belief systems, our belief system comes primarily from our religion (Religion not only referring to Christianity but religion on a whole). Our religious beliefs eventually become our culture and culture our way of life. Hence, is it Culture and Religion that prevents and obstructs the “stamping” out or reduction of the incidence of Gender Based Violence? Hmmmmmm!

Come out to the debate on November 30th at the Government Administration Building from 6:30 – 9:00 and hear the arguments put forward and see if Culture and Religion is to blame for the way we think and our  behaviour. There will be a mix and mingle (a happy hour without alcohol) from 6:30,and the debate starts at 7:00 pm sharp. Come prepared to hear and be informed. See you there……..