WPO observes ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence’ campaign
Women’s Progressive Organization ( WPO) joins Guyana and the rest of the world in observance of the ‘16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence’ campaign to challenge violence against women and girls. The campaign runs from 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10 December, Human Rights Day. The theme for this year is “Leave No One Behind: End Violence against Women and Girls”.
As we commence this important campaign, we pay homage to the three Mirabel sisters of Guatemala who were murdered by the Trujillo regime on the 25 November, 1960. We take this opportunity to salute the women of Guatemala who were relentless in their campaign internationally to expose the tyranny of the government and the murder of the three sisters who became the catalyst for change. They were not only seen as a symbol of resistance, but also champions of freedom and justice. Their sacrifice was not in vain since the United Nations (UN) has officially recognized this day.
The theme to end violence against women is becoming a top priority issue since statistics by the UN Women have revealed that 35% of women in the world have experienced physical and/or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives. Some national studies show that 70% of women have experienced physical and/or sexual violence from an intimate partner in their lifetime.
In Guyana, although the Domestic Violence Legislation was passed in 1996 and support was given to areas including shelter, counselling and legal aid, there is still a high level of violence against women and girls occurring. We recognize that not all cases are reported, but those that are in the public domain are frightening enough.
It is unclear whether the law which was passed is known in the various corners of the country or whether the agencies and institutions responsible for implementing the laws are following the prescribed processes and procedures required of them? Are reports properly documented and are court orders enforced? Do citizens have access to services such as adequate shelters, counselling and legal aid? These are some of the important ar- eas which must be addressed in an effort to not only promote awareness, but to also provide justice to those who have been violated.
We are aware that there is poor reporting by law enforcing officers, and recommend that this issue be addressed urgently. If this situation is not addressed promptly, more cases will be thrown out for want of proper prosecution. We call on the relevant agencies to consider increasing the penalties for breaching the Protection Order. We also wish to propose that victims who do not wish to pursue prosecution against their perpetrator should be both placed on a one year bond and undergo mandatory counseling from a certified therapist.
The WPO is of the firm view that the government should provide greater leadership and support to the areas raised above. They should foster closer collaboration with the many groups who are already engaged in the fighting violence against women and girls. The news of another woman or girl who becomes a victim is one too many. Let us all do more in helping to reduce the scourge of violence in our society. (WPO Statement)