By: Angeles Itzab
The 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence Campaign is a time to galvanize action to end violence against women and girls around the world. It began on November 25th, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women and will culminate on the 10th of December on Human Rights Day. This year Belize has had its overwhelming number of tragedies involving violence against women and girls. It has been a year that has seen the worst of people. One of the most gruesome deaths for this year was that of Baby Alyssa; who at just 17 months old was the victim of a sexual assault that led to her untimely death. There was widespread public outcry, via social media channels from the various Women and Family organizations, political leaders, NGO’s and the general public but since then have all these cries fallen on deaf ears? Has anything changed between then and now? How many more cases or child sexual assaults, elderly women assaults or of any age do we have to live through before TRUE action is taken?
On Tuesday a 68 year old cheese vendor was found inside a pit latrine in Pomana Village, she had been stabbed, dumped into the pit latrine and left to bleed to death. Her family, and in a sense the entire country is left to wonder, what might lead a person to commit such a heinous crime on an elderly woman, who is making her living in a humble and honest way? It was then found out that she was probably killed because she went to collect from someone who owed her money. Imagine, dying because you are owed to. And like her there have been several other cases of rape, abuse and murder on our mothers, sisters, and daughters many of which go unheard of.
This year’s theme for the 16 days of activism is #HearMeToo-End Violence against Women and Girls! The National Women’s Commission Secretariat has put together a 12 page calendar of activities that will be taking place throughout these 16 days. How do any of these activities make more of an impact than a press release when a crime occurs? The theme #HearMeToo indicates that a voice is being raised, that someone is speaking. How long do women need to raise their voices before someone LISTENS? Who needs to listen?
Whenever a man tries to divert the conversation about rape by saying men get raped too, ask him what he does before he leaves his house to avoid getting raped? Ask him what tactics he uses to keep his drink from getting spiked? Ask him how many of his friends have cried on his shoulder after being raped? Ask him which men’s blog, journal or magazine has offered tips to escape a rapist? Ask him what areas/times he has identified as high-risk? Because women all have detailed answers to all these questions.
With only five women in our National Assembly, a little over ten percent it is certain that women are underrepresented in the most important policy making body of the country. Therefore it is in the hands of the men to make legislation that affects women and children. Systematically speaking, your fate is in the hands of the gender who is causing the most harm. It is not women who need to hear us, it is the men who need to listen. The Political will needs to be present or our women and our young girls will continue to suffer in silence.