Hi, everybody. The 16 days of activism against gender-based violence, is well underway. I want all of us to work together to deal with this challenge for it affects everyone.
Gender based violence is more than an affront to basic decency; it is also a gross violation of the victim’s human rights. Make no mistake, domestic and sexual assault is an affront to all of us.
Gender based violence robs victims of their self-worth, it can cause a young woman to drop out of school, cause a working mom to walk off a much needed job after being attacked, or an individual may withdraw from the ones they love out of fear and self-condemnation.
As leaders we have to step up our efforts to end this and it will take a lot more than 16 days of activism. Government must strengthen the laws to protect women on the job and elsewhere. While we have no local statistics to draw from, the WHO reports that 36 percent of women in our region have reported some form of physical or sexual violence committed against them — this is wrong. It is wrong when a male athlete beat up on a female referee. It is beyond cruel when a sweet 68-year-old woman is stabbed and murdered and it is despicable when a 17-month-old baby girl is sexually assaulted.
We need to act. First we need to collect the proper data and insist that every woman who shows up at a doctor’s office of health facility with bruises or who show signs of physical abuse is reported to the police. Second government should ensure that the police check and report on every call involving gender-based violence. Third government can support community groups and associations with training and referrals for preventing domestic violence.
The PUP will work to end gender based violence. We will strengthen our criminal justice system, so police and prosecutors have the tools and training to bring perpetrators to justice. We will work with social partners to build prevention programs and reach out to survivors.
While I know that a lot of this work is government’s, everyone has a role to play. We’ve got to teach young people – men and women – to be brave enough to stand up and help put an end to gender based violence. Government must act and so must we. This macho culture where men see their partners as possession or less than their equal has to end. And yes, women have to speak up and speak out at the first sign of abuse. We also need to teach young men to show women the respect they deserve. Belizean men must understand that it is wrong to beat women and Belizean women must know, they don’t have to put up with it.
I’m going to keep pushing for people in my Party to stand up against gender based violence in all its forms and I promise to make it a priority to when we get to Belmopan. We must respect the rights of every Belizean if we are to build a Belize that works for everyone.
Thanks God Bless and have a safe week.