Gender violence remains a significant problem affecting the Cayman Islands, as it does societies worldwide.
Gender-based violence both reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women and compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims. It encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls and several harmful traditional practices.
Violence ruins lives, breaks up families and has a lasting impact on our whole society. For these reasons, I urge the people of these Islands to take a firm stance during this year’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign.
Originating from the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership in the United States of America, this international campaign was launched in 1991.
Since then, it has prompted individuals, groups and governments around the world to come together and call for the elimination of all forms of violence. By raising awareness, strengthening local work, establishing a clear link between local and international work, providing a forum to share effective strategies, reinforcing the importance of women’s worth and creating preventive tools, we are well on our way.
This annual observance began on 25 November – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women – and continues through 10 December, International Human Rights Day, to emphasise that such violence is a violation of human rights.
Marking the third year that the advocacy theme focused on the intersections of gender-based violence and militarism, the 2012 theme is From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let’s Challenge Militarism and End Violence Against Women. It focuses on how “peace in the home” can extend outwards to become “peace in the world”. While the Cayman Islands are fortunate enough not to have the ill effects resulting from the conflicts of war, we can focus our efforts to ensure that we have peaceful homes in order to create a more peaceful country.
Globally, violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights and has far-reaching consequences, harming many families and communities.
According to the United Nations, up to 70 per cent of women experience gender-based violence in their lifetime. It is estimated that worldwide, one in five women will experience rape or attempted rape. Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war and malaria.
We cannot ignore these unfortunate international statistics and must also recognise the impact that these issues have on our own society and find solutions.
In the spirit of this campaign, the Ministry launched the National Committee on Gender and Family Violence on the 26th November in order to bring a holistic focus to issues such as gender violence, family violence, child abuse, sexual assault, rape, sexual harassment and stalking. This group will also improve systems by providing recommendations to government in relation to the development of policies, procedures, legislation, training, public education and other responses to these salient issues.
A special thanks to the Department of Counselling Services’ Family Resource Centre, Department of Children and Family Services, Business and Professional Women’s Club Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, Cayman Islands Crisis Centre and Estella Scott-Roberts Foundation and other organisations that have worked together to help our people understand these issues and raise the level of awareness about gender-based violence. Your hard work truly deserves our appreciation.
Society, as a whole, plays a crucial role in developing peaceful understandings and collective safety. It is only by working together that we can create a safe and equal future for our sons and daughters.
While there are many helpful tools and resources available, public participation is key. With the passage of the new Gender Equality Law, we have a legal framework in place that promotes the spirit of equality between men and women in the workplace and with other matters such as prohibiting sexual harassment. Strengthening the Protection from Domestic Violence Law, 2010 was another important milestone in our mission to eradicate abuse from the domestic setting and protect families.
As we join in this international effort, we are aware that this campaign calls for an end to all manifestations of gender violence and other human rights infractions. We know that there are victims of gender-based violence in our community, and we are experiencing increased and unprecedented threats of violence to the lives of our children and adolescents.
Behind closed doors, too many of our homes are war zones, leaving families scarred and bruised, with some living in emotional turmoil. We must continue to work with the hope of eliminating this problem. Every citizen must therefore assume a measure of responsibility to reduce these incidents. The change we want to see must start with each of us.
Throughout the next 16 days, I urge you all to join me in calling for an end to the epidemic of gender-based violence. Let us unite and support these efforts in building a peaceful and safe community today, tomorrow and forever.
Minister for Community Affairs, Gender and Housing