16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM AGAINST GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE CAMPAIGN

“Orange the World: Generation Equality Stands Against Rape” is the 2019 theme chosen by the United Nations to observe the annual 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-based Violence Campaign – known simply as the 16 Day Campaign. The international observance runs from November 25th to December 10th and has been designed by UN Women to raise awareness to violence again women, men and children; to prevent such acts of violence wherever possible; and to lobby for justice and relief for the victims of violence.

Minister of State with Responsibility for Gender Affairs, the Hon Senator Wendy Colleen Phipps, indicated that the 16 Day Campaign is being observed in the Federation under the leadership of the Departments of Gender Affairs on both islands. The Minister took the time to provide some background information to this annual awareness campaign that has been undertaken by more than 6,000 organisations from approximately 187 countries over the past 28 years:

“The 16 Day Campaign is book-ended by two major United Nations’ observances and dates, namely, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25th, and December 10th, International Human Rights Day on December 10th.
The Campaign was started by activists in 1991 at the first Women’s Global Leadership Institute organised by the Rutgers University-based Center for Women’s Global Leadership. Over the 16-day period of awareness and activism there are several other noteworthy UN observances, including December 3rd, International Day of Persons With Disability; December 1st, World Aids Day; and December 5th , International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development,” Minister Phipps stated.

Minister Phipps added that the 2019 observance of the 16 Day Campaign has the added dimension of being tied to the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres’ UNiTE by 2030 to End Violence Against Women campaign (UNiTE campaign) which demands worldwide activism, strengthened advocacy efforts, heightened awareness, and knowledge sharing in order to bring meaningful change to the lives of women who are victims of violence, by 2030 – the deadline year for the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Minister said:

“Women and girls have been constantly under threat of sexual violence, rape and sexual abuse throughout the course of human history” the Minister stated. “Every one of these dastardly, anti-social behaviours against the female gender is inexcusable, and speaks to the perpetrators’ desire for power and control, and a warped belief system that convinces them that they are entitled to violate women and girls – often with no sense of boundaries with regards to their relationship to the victims, or the age of the victims. Moreover, when one contemplates the trauma, shame, stigma and discrimination often suffered by the victims of sexual violence it is no small wonder that much of these crimes go unreported. Most global data bases illustrate that women aged 16-19 are four times more likely to suffer rape and sexual assault; less than 40% of women who experience sexual violence seek the help they need; and less than 10% seek help from law enforcement agencies. ”

Minister Phipps noted that even within our own Federation, data for 2018 up to November 30th, illustrated that while there were only two (2) reported cases of rape made to the Special Victims Unit (SVU) of the Police Force, there were some 12 cases of rape received and treated at the JNF General Hospital over the same period. According to the Minister, this is an indication that while victims of sexual violence are willing to seek medical attention following an incident of rape, most victims stop short of reporting the offence to the Police and getting the justice they deserve. She said:

“As a result of the under-reporting of sexual offences – which is an international problem – global efforts such as the 16 day Campaign are meant to end the silence, and begin the hard process of unshackling victims of sexual violence so they can get the help and counselling they need and receive justice in the legal system. In this way, they can begin the long journey of re-building and moving on with their lives.”

The Department of Gender Affairs on St. Kitts has planned a number of programmes to observe the 16 Day Campaign, with the support of several approximately 11 community activist groups and special interest groups. Some of these activities are:

Nov. 26th Workshop with Teens: Topic: “Gender-based Violence among High School Teens” at St George’s Anglican Church Hall ~ from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Nov. 27th Appearance on “Working for You” Radio Programme on ZIZ – staff of the Department of Gender Affairs & Representative from the Men’s Council
Nov. 29th “Word on the Street” – Aired on ZIZ; & Youth March from the Tamarind Tree at Greenlands – with high school students, starting at 9:30 a.m.
Dec. 3rd Open Forum: Panel Discussion with Five Pastors on the Topic: Sexual Violence & Religion – St. George’s Anglican Church Hall, from 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Dec. 4th Youth Beat on Freedom FM, starting at 7:30 p.m. with high school students from the 4th and 5th Forms
Dec. 7th Appearance on ‘Inside the News’ on WINNFM. Topic: “Women Who Keep Choosing Abusive Relationships”, starting at 12 noon – panellists drawn from various civil society organisations (CSOs), including the St. Kitts and Nevis Association of Persons with Disabilities, the Men’s Council, etc.
Dec. 10th T-shirt Day in observance of International Human Rights Day

The Department of Gender Affairs wishes to remind the public that gender-based violence is not purely a case of women and girls being the only victims. Such violence has both female and male victims, although males are far less likely to (a) be abused; and (b) report cases of such crimes. Regardless of the gender of the perpetrator and the victim, the Department of Gender Affairs reminds every citizen and resident that what we are prepared to tolerate we will never change. Therefore, victims of violence should seek out help immediately, and if possible, get help even before the first episode of abuse occurs – once the danger/warning signs are clearly evident.

The Department of Gender Affairs encourages the general public to support the various programmes which are being organised in observance of the 2019 16 Day Campaign, with a view to getting involved in the worthwhile, global mission of ending gender-based violence wherever it exists, starting with our own Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.
November 25, 2019

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