November 25th each year marks the observation of the United Nations Day which calls for greater action to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls. This day marks the beginning of 10 days of activism that end on December 10th World Human Rights Day. The observation 2017 is held under the banner “Leave No One Behind: End Violence Against Women and Girls”. Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls” reinforces the UNiTE Campaign’s commitment to a world free from violence for all women and girls around the world, while reaching the most underserved and marginalized, including refugees, migrants, minorities, indigenous peoples, and populations affected by conflict and natural disasters, amongst others, first (Un Org).
Sint Maarten has recently experience one of the most devastating storm in its history on September 6th. This storm has left in its path share destruction. It has plundered our island’s eco system, homes, lives, social infrastructure, displacing many. Unfortunately, there were also loss of lives as a result. With the displacement of persons in particular women and children and services not functioning to its optimum, it places women and children at greater risk.
The after effects of such destruction is surmountable and can contribute to the rise or increase of social ills, domestic violence being one. The Gender and Disaster Network highlighted that “Domestic violence also referred to as relational violence is a social fact contributing to the vulnerability of women in disaster. These women are considered a very vulnerable population who are less visibly at risk than poor women, refugees, single mothers, widows, senior or disabled women. All can agree that violence against women in intimate relationships crosses these and other social lines.
In a Global study published by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies it sighted that in countries where gender base violence was reported, domestic violence was the most widespread form of violence. The reasons cited to explain this included: marital conflict; exacerbated by stress caused by loss of family members, livelihoods and homes;
limited resources; and infidelity and promiscuity resulting from cramped life in internally displaced person (IDP) camps. The combination of personal loss, financial hardship and uncertainty seems to increase violence by husbands and intimate partners within the family. Some researchers have suggested that, when stress aggravates feelings of loss of control, perpetrators tighten their authority at home, the one area in which they feel they have power.
Locally Safe Haven, the shelter for battered women, indicated that since the passage of the hurricane there has been a spike in the number of calls to the shelter from women seeking refuge from violence in their living environment. During the management of the NIPA Shelter there were women who came seeking shelter due to relational problems. In the Daily Herald of November 17th there was also a case sighted where a women was being treated by paramedics after being abused by her partner. All these incidences are indications that we do have a challenge with relational violence and persons do not know how to respond in cases of relational conflict. This however, does not mean that the violence did not exist before the hurricane; it simply means that we do have a challenge with relational violence and person’s tolerance levels as well as their ability to deal with conflict and resolve conflict situations in a more amicable and humane manner.
As a community there needs to be greater effort on the part of all involved to stamp out the social surge of domestic violence in our beloved Sint Maarten. As we observe this period let us be more attentive to those families, individuals, women, girls even the perpetrator who seems to be struggling and are challenged by violence. Let us be the society that CARES, “leaving no one behind”.