Anyone who commits abuse will face full force of law – Dr. Vindhya Persaud
–Launch of ‘CAN’
In launching her latest initiative called Community Advocates Network (CAN), Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud has made clear that anyone who perpetrates violence – irrespective of their office or status – will face the full force of the law.
CAN was launched at Parliament Building in Georgetown on Wednesday as the culmination of activities for 16 Days of Activism which commenced last November 25. The event saw the attendance of Prime Minister Mark Phillips, several ambassadors, Members of Parliament and Government ministers.
CAN is a brand new programme that encourages a robust and vibrant network across the country where people encourage each other, help persons to seek help, and report issues to the Ministry in a timely way so that action can be taken.
“Abuse is a social issue that cannot be ignored anymore by anyone. It is never good to say it doesn’t exist. We need to accept it for what it is and fix it,” Dr. Persaud said, adding, “It exists in our country and we need not be blind or dismissive. We need to hear the repeated cries for help, look beyond the physical and understand the emotional scars.”
As she called for persons to sign on to the “action-oriented” ‘I CAN’ pledge, Minister Persaud stressed that perpetrators of abuse must know that they are always under scrutiny. “We have to let people know that we’re not going to turn a blind eye anymore. Irrespective of where you stand, you’ll be held accountable. Irrespective of who you are, if you’re perpetrating the crime of abuse you will face the full force of the law.”
Social media, Minister Persaud pointed out, has brought with it different challenges so that when people speak of emotional and verbal abuse, social media can be weaponized to create more long lasting scars. It is for this reason that Dr. Persaud noted that victims have to be supported to the extent that they do not feel alone, abandoned or like no one is listening.
Senior Gender Affairs Bureau officer Haymawattie Lagan in remarks noted that the 16 Days of Activism saw the holding of various activities across the country with panel discussions being held on the subject in at least six regions. Through these exercises, survivors have been able to share their experiences; along with recommendations of what they think will work to help curb the problem.
In few words, Prime Minister Phillips offered that violence against women and girls has no space in developing Guyana.
Minister of Amerindian Affairs Pauline Sukhai, who started her career as a Domestic Violence and Women’s advocate, urged victims not to be too ashamed or embarrassed to seek help, while Minister of Public Service Sonia Parag reminded that there’s a legal way out of domestic violence and that focus should be on bringing awareness in the local communities.
Several other presentations were made by persons in support of Dr. Persaud’s initiative including the UK Ambassador, US Ambassador, Canadian High Commissioner, EU Ambassador and UN representative.
Meanwhile, the panel discussions in communities across the country saw presentations by persons in the legal, health and social work fields, survivors and advocates. These discussions led to more community involvement in the fight against abuse and targeted survivors, perpetrators, persons experiencing abuse and persons who are willing to be advocates.
Among the other initiatives by the Ministry during this period were the launch of the ‘Orange the World’ filter on Facebook, candle lighting for those who died due to domestic violence, media events, book launches and much more. The Ministry was also lit up in orange in observance of the period.