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Gender-based violence (GBV) is harmful acts directed at an individual based on their gender. GBV is not only rooted in gender inequality, the abuse of power and harmful norms, but is also a serious violation of human rights, life-threatening to health, and a protection issue. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that about 1 in 3 (30%) women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
WHO said most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Almost one third (27%) of women aged 15-49 years who have been in a relationship report that they have been subjected to some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner. Last year, 55 percent of Guyanese were exposed to violence. This staggering number, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud, attributes to non-existent support systems, poor kinship and financial dependency.
Violence against women is preventable. Whilst GBV continues it can negatively affect women’s physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health, and may increase the risk of acquiring HIV in some settings.
It is important for government, in their obligations to ensuring the well-being of citizens, provide support services in helping citizens identify GBV, build and maintain strong infrastructural, legal, financial and other support to hold offenders accountable, and provide a safe place for the abused in the fight to eliminate the scourge.
In the fight against GBV there must be no safe haven for abusers, whether in high or low office, working or not, wealthy or poor, politically/socially connected or not.
The Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, on Friday, launched its Community Advocates Network (I CAN) poster pledge campaign. The initiative seeks to mount poster pledges on walls and other visible areas to increase awareness and recruit others to join the cause. The effort is a partnership among the Government of Guyana, Enabling Gender-Responsive Disaster Recovery, Climate and Environmental Resilience in the Caribbean (EnGenDER) project of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), along with the Governments of Canada and the United Kingdom.
Minister Persaud, M.P., in brief remarks, spoke about the government’s initiatives to address GBV. These include, the establishment of the 914 hotline, gender-based violence ‘iMatter,’ and free legal services to victims. She said the 24-hour hotline now allows persons to make reports in privacy without fear of scrutiny. Steps are being made to create murals and a jingle with anti-violence messages as a second phase of the helpline.
Impressing on society the necessity of cooperation in the fight, Minister Persaud said it is her hope the relevant stakeholders join forces with the government to eradicate the scourge. Those desirous of joining are expected to take the pledge, sign a pledge card, and become an ambassador of change to promote the elimination of domestic violence.
British High Commissioner to Guyana, H.E, Jane Miller said the support given is necessary to help those unable to do so for themselves, and she is “really proud of this initiative where we are recognising the importance of ending gender-based violence.” Similar sentiments were shared by representatives of EnGenDER, as well as the Canadian Government.