MESSAGE FROM HIS EXCELLENCY IRWIN LAROCQUE SECRETARY-GENERAL, CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY ON THE OCCASION OF THE 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM CAMPAIGN AGAINST GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE, NOVEMBER 25TH – DECEMBER 10TH 2018
Women’s rights activists have observed November 25th as a day to advocate against gender-based violence since 1981. However, it was not until 2000 that the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted Resolution 54/134, officially designating November 25th as the International day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
This date was chosen to honour the Mirabal sisters, three political activists from the Dominican Republic, who were brutally murdered in 1960. In 1991, the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute set aside 16 days and included that single day, to bring the issue of violence against women and girls into sharp focus. The 16-day period incorporates four important observances, starting with the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and Girls on November 25th; Human Rights Defenders Day on November 29th; World AIDS Day, on December 1st, with the campaign ending on Human Rights Day on December 10th.
A major step was taken in 2008 when former UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki Moon launched the UNiTE to End Violence against Women and Girls Campaign. It aimed to not only raise public awareness of the issue, but also to increase both policymaking and resources dedicated to ending violence against women and girls worldwide. It, however, remains a pervasive problem worldwide.
Our Caribbean Region, according to UN Women, accounts for some of the highest rates of that type of violence in the world. One in three women and or girls, have experienced physical and or sexual violence at some point in their lives.
This year’s theme is: Orange the World: #Hear Me Too; End Violence Against Women and Girls. The colour orange was chosen as a bright, unifying colour which represents a future free of violence for women and girls. The 16 Days of Activism Campaign is a time to galvanize action to end that practice around the world, as well as the impunity, silence and stigma that have allowed it to escalate to pandemic proportions and, in some cases, so normalised that it has become invisible.
While most countries have laws which ban domestic abuse, the World Health Organisation (WHO) documents fifteen countries, mostly in Africa and the Middle East, where domestic violence is legal. Thirty-seven countries worldwide still exempt perpetrators of rape from prosecution if they are married to or eventually marry the victim and forty-nine countries currently have no laws protecting women from domestic violence.
The UN has called on the international community to accelerate its efforts to ensure that women and girls can live lives free of violence and intimidation at latest by 2030. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has included violence against women and girls as a target area under Goal 5 on Gender Equality. It reaffirms that such violence is a barrier to gender equality, women’s empowerment and sustainable development, as well as to the achievement of the other sixteen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
It is important to note that while violence is an extreme violation of women and girls human rights, it also incurs huge economic costs for women and families, as well as for communities and societies. The 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women in 2013, noted the economic and social harm caused by such violence and strongly urged all governments to collect, collate, analyze and disseminate reliable and comparable data and statistics on a regular basis, disaggregated by sex and age.
Data is needed on all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls. There is also a need for multidisciplinary research and analysis on the structural and underlying causes of, and risk factors for violence, its types and prevalence, in order to inform the development and revision of laws.
I am happy to report that, with the collaborative efforts of UN Women, the CARICOM Secretariat and several international partners, prevalence surveys on gender-based violence have been conducted in the CARICOM Region for the first time. The Trinidad and Tobago’s Prevalence Survey was completed in May 2018, and Jamaica’s in June. Surveys are in progress in Grenada and Suriname with Guyana scheduled to launch theirs in January 2019.
As we mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, partners and governments are encouraged to host events with local, national, regional and global women’s movements, survivor advocates and women human rights defenders. These should create opportunities for sharing personal stories to stimulate dialogue among activists, policy-makers and the public.
During this sixteen-day Campaign, people around the world, especially women, are mobilising to ensure that they can enjoy the full complement of their human rights. But women and girls cannot do it alone. Men and boys must become involved.
We all have a shared responsibility in achieving gender equality which will allow our women and girls in our Caribbean Region an opportunity to live their lives free of violence.