Wednesday 21 October, 2020

UWI gender unit concerned over drastic spike in domestic violence

The Institute for Gender and Development Studies, The UWI, St. Augustine Campus says it has observed the drastic rise in domestic violence with “203 police reports made for March compared with 42 reports for the same month in 2019."

In a statement, it said this is part of a worldwide rise in intimate partner violence and family violence deeply rooted in gender norms, and triggered by the COVID-19 crisis and state response.

The gender unit also noted that greater economic and psychological stress on families, due to income loss and heightened insecurity, can exacerbate women and girls’ vulnerability to physical and sexual violence in their homes, from family members and partners.

"Pre-COVID-19, 1 in 3 women reported experiencing sexual or physical violence from their partners in their lifetime, and 1 in 5 reported experiencing child sexual abuse at least once in their lifetime, suggesting that home and family were already sites of threat, fear and potential harm. These are the spaces to which women are now confined," it indicated.

It said pre-COVID-19, resources available to victims were already 'woefully inadequate' and the state of gender-based violence was already considered to be at a 'crisis level' in Trinidad and Tobago.

The institute said government agencies are turning to civil society organisations for help in the provision of safe accommodation for victims.

It said such organisations providing support on the ground should be better resourced, given their ability to respond with greater agility than state bureaucracy at a time when such urgency is required.

The UWI Institute for Gender and Development Studies is therefore calling on Government to address the situation.

"We call on the government to honour this commitment by outlining how it will address increased gender-based violence in the recovery period from COVID-19 and to treat victims’ immediate need for safety and shelter as an urgent priority. We call for the inclusion of the women’s movement, with more than 30 years of experience addressing gender-based violence, in planning for post-disaster recovery. We also call on the government to recognise that the increase in domestic violence reports requires, more than ever, a national strategy to prevent and address this immediate as well as long term crisis."

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