CASTRIES, St Lucia — The most recent acts of violence against women in Saint Lucia has brought to the forefront of the national consciousness the need for stricter domestic violence legislation on the island.
“It is a moral imperative that every citizen must accept his or her responsibility to respect and protect the rights of every other to life, liberty and the pursuit of a happy, peaceful and enjoyable life,” said Felicia Browne, president of Caribbean Mentorship Institute (CMI).
According to Browne, the rights to protect family members from domestic abuse should no longer be seen or regarded as a private matter. The time when domestic violence and violence against women and children was seen as a matter which should remain private, hidden in the confines of a home silence by neighbours, churches, schools, the police, market vendors, merchants and politicians should now come tumbling down.
“It is no longer right or acceptable for women to remain in abusive relationships that are detrimental to their existence. Everyday a woman is beaten, abused or violated and when the collective seems to turn their heads in silence, the country becomes a more disturbing and sadder place for all of us,” she said.
Browne pointed out that it is not only the job of the police, because the police, in most cases, can only act after the fact when the law is broken.
“It is the job of all of us: the judges, the politicians, the priests, our brothers and sisters, teachers and educators. If it takes a whole village to raise a child, then it ought to take everyone in that same village to protect the children and women of our nation,” she said.
Browne added, “Though many Caribbean countries have made strides in implementing legislative reform for domestic violence, we cannot allow ourselves to be part of a problem that has continue to hinder the progress of our women. Families are starting younger and are being deprived of the basic necessity of having a functional and stable family structure. The relationship between men and women sits precariously on an unbalanced scale of fairness and justice and many women are left to shoulder the burden of a society which does not view them as equals to their male counterpart.”
“The practice of documenting the plight of women — beaten, threatened, sexually harassed, psychologically abused, raped and murdered as a mere statistical footnote in our social history and not as a lightning rod to initiate social and political change has to stop. It is a documented fact that gender based violence and sexual abuse within the Caribbean are rising at alarming rates. This reality dictates that our societies must create serious, effective and collective responses to these human rights abuses,” she said.
“Today, as we observe the international One Billion Rising advocacy against domestic violence, let us not forget the very reason we are rising against this global epidemic. Today we will honour all the victims of domestic violence – past and present. We will remember their families, loved ones and communities and continue to pray that our men and women will re-visit their notions of gender equality, and to foster peace and unity within their homes, communities and nation that violence violates humanity,” Browne concluded.