The Caribbean Women’s Association (Cariwa) is calling on the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to reinstate its Women’s Desk in the wake of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Cariwa Vice-President Marilyn Rice-Bowen says the post is necessary if the region is truly committed to fighting violence against women and girls.
She acknowledges that Caricom is implementing measures to combat domestic violence, but says a dedicated Women’s Desk could help better address the issue in a region where femicides account for as much as 50 percent of all murders.
Rice-Bowen made the announcement at an exhibition opening at the United Nations House in Barbados as part of its 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence initiative.
Despite the Caribbean’s international image as “tranquil,” she noted, it has “among the highest rates of sexual assault in the world.” As a result, Caricom has a responsibility to provide women and girls with safe spaces, Rice-Bowen says.
Cariwa is also calling on individual governments to examine the economic impact of domestic violence across the Caribbean. Rice-Bowen says that violence against women costs approximately US$1.5 trillion, about the size of the Canadian economy.
The activist has urged the media to build awareness and security around the reporting of sexual assault cases, which remain a challenge for Caribbean states, including The Bahamas, Belize, Saint Lucia and Grenada.
“Today I appeal to the region’s media to please desist from reporting ‘Man charged for having sex with a minor,’ Rice-Bowen said in her address. “Call it by the correct name: it is statutory rape, not sex.”
The stated mission of Caricom is to create a Caribbean that’s “integrated, inclusive and resilient; driven by knowledge, excellence, innovation and productivity; a community where every citizen is secure and has the opportunity to realise his or her potential, with guaranteed human rights and social justice.”
The art exhibit is travelling through three continents and seven countries between Nov. 25 and Dec. 10 to raise awareness about the global epidemic of gender-based violence.