May 07, 2013 - Interpersonal Violence3214 07 May, 2013
May 07, 2013 - INTERPERSONAL VIOLENCE
Minister of Human Services and Social Security [Ms. Webster]: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I rise in this honourable House to make my contribution to this motion on interpersonal violence which was tabled by the Hon. Member Mrs. Deborah Backer. The world report on violence and health presents a typology on violence and I think it is an issue of concern to all of us in this House. The Government of Guyana remains unequivocally committed to condemning all forms of interpersonal violence committed upon our people and this has been demonstrated by our commitment to the ratification of a number of international instruments, wherever applicable and Guyana acceding to recommendations and resolutions emanating from international agreements.
Over the past several years we have seen the passage of several progressive pieces of legislation being enacted in this House. We have seen the 1996 Domestic Violence Act. We have seen more recently the Sexual Offences Act of 2010… [Microphone ceased working.]
Mr. Speaker: Our apologies, Minister. Sorry about that.
[With permission, Ms. Webster removed from her seat to make use of Minister G. Persaud’s microphone due to hers malfunctioning]
Ms. Webster: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, despite what has happened. While incidents of interpersonal violence have reached alarming proportions in Guyana despite numerous programmes implemented throughout the country and initiated by several Government Agencies, including the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security and faith-based organisations, volunteer organisations and other community-based organisations which are all aimed at reducing interpersonal violence, we as Parliamentarians need to be united on this issue as we seek to make a difference in the lives of all Guyanese.
We in this House, as representatives of the people must acknowledge that this is a disturbing trend and no doubt there is greater need for all of us to dedicate our efforts in the best interest of all citizens who continue to be adversely affected by it. Violence cuts across all borders, ethnicity, socioeconomic statuses and religions. It is not only a gender nor an economic issue but a matter of human rights and security. It adversely impacts upon the welfare of our communities when our women and girls are abused businesses close, incomes shrink, families are deprived of the basic necessities of life and our children grow up internalising behavioural patterns that perpetuate the cycle of violence. There is no end to the economic and detrimental social and health costs to the state that come along with this brutality.
Interpersonal violence results in the upheaval of progress of social, human and economic development in any society and more so here in Guyana. In June, 2012, the Ministry of Labour, Human Service and Social Security launched a national conversation on gender based violence as one of the several initiatives aimed to continue the issue of violence within our society with the primary objective being to identify preventative mechanisms to address this issue since the effect of violence on our nation’s human capital will significantly affect our country’s development. During the latter part of 2012 there were 24 conversations which were held throughout the ten Administrative Regions. In 2013 there are five remaining consultations which are scheduled to be held in Regions Nos. 4, 5 and 7. However, emanating so far from the national conversation has been a Draft National Action Plan which will include a shared nation vision on gender-based violence. In that Draft National Action Plan there are a number of recommendations which have been identified based on concerns raised by citizens throughout the country. I want to take this opportunity to share with this honourable House some of those recommendations which have emanated, to name a few. We have premarital counselling. I listed to the mover of the motion when she spoke about young people getting married and so on. It has been recognised that individuals are getting married without understanding how healthy relationships are formed and nurtured. Educational programmes available in communities, the issue of non-violence counselling, anger management, school violence prevention programmes, school counselling programmes, addressing the issue of drug and alcohol abuse in our schools, rights awareness sessions, domestic violence awareness sessions, educating our younger populace about the adverse effect of violence in our society, positive parenting, effective communication, family values, addressing socio-cultural issues in positive venues, youth groups, enforcing laws and legislation, enforcing restraining orders, stricter penalties for perpetrators, more rights for the abused, more trained social workers, strengthening the efficacy of the court system, children should not be released into violent homes – that is one of the recommendations; the whole issue of the media and the role that they play in this issue; music and its interpretation and the adverse effect of some of the musical songs that we hear on our airwaves have on our society; banning of violent music from mainstream radio; publicising perpetrators and, of course, rehabilitation centres for perpetrators; enacting legislation to protect the elderly citizens of our country who are also subject to some forms of violence and abuse. Despite our efforts at the level of the Government of Guyana to put in place robust legal framework and to also implement various programmes there is still need to protect our women and girls from intimate partners and male family members by whom many of them have suffered at the hands of.
We in this House are all aware of this matter and I strongly believe that the issue of violence demands intensive action by us all. We must commit ourselves as Members of this National Assembly to actively support existing programmes being implemented through civil society bodies, faith-based, women and youth organisations. The Men’s Affair Bureau has been doing a lot of work with our men and boys and, more so, visiting our schools and sensitising our school children about the adverse effect of violence.
The Child Care and Protection Agency and the National Commission on the Family: The National Commission on the Family has been mandated to address issues pertaining to the family and, more particularly, such as what the significant is of a good family life, parenting, leadership, social interaction in the home, gender-based violence, the protection of our children, the women and other social issues which have a direct impact on our society and our nation as a whole. The work of this commission is therefore fundamental towards working to further improve the social and moral fabric of our society. In Guyana today there are many single-parent families. Many of them headed by women and I heard the Hon. Member, Mrs. Deborah Backer, speak to the issue of providing support for our single-parent women, some of whom have to work in the nights. I wish to remind this House that during the budget debate I did speak to the issue of our Government, this year, looking to introduce through the Early Childhood Development Programme night care facilities so that those parents who work at nights would have access to those facilities; helping them to ensure that their children are cared for properly and not left unsupervised.
Of course, we are all aware that the family is the nucleus of any society and it is important the we recognise in our homes that the supportive role of the family cannot be over-emphasised. The home is the first and most formative frame of reference on which a child models his or her own future life. It is therefore imperative that values and virtues should be instilled at this stage. We need to nurture or children to ensure that they are give equal opportunities and treatment. If we perpetuate the prejudice, for example, that our girls should stay indoors whilst our boys are allowed to go outside we are contributing and reinforcing unnatural separations and it is necessary to challenge gender stereotypes and social norms that perpetuate violence. If our girls are the first choice in forced absence from schooling we will continue the cycle of economic inequities for our women and its attendant lack of independence and autonomy and we do not want that. We need to recognise the importance of teaching our children values of life so that in years to come they would grow up to be upstanding citizens in our country who would be committed and dedicated to working for a better Guyana. It is also important for us as leaders, parents, that we teach our boys to ensure that they learn to respect our women and to become upstanding gentlemen and to be responsible boyfriends, fiancés, partners, husbands, co-workers as they socialise with girls in the home, at school, in the workplace, in social settings, communities and the society at large.
It is these boys and girls who will contribute to the creation of a world in which interpersonal violence, gender based discrimination, violence and abuse are confined to the history books in Guyana. We must dedicate our efforts to changing some of the inappropriate attitudes and behavioural patterns which exist within our society today. We need to inculcate positive attitudes in our children so that, as adults, they will learn to treat others, whom they come into contact with, with respect and decency. We must equally examine our socialisation process. All parents have an obligation to be positive role models to their children.
Our education system has a role to play by reinforcing these messages through the medium of Health and Family Life Education in our schools. Role models need to be cognizant of their responsibilities to mentor and mould our young people in a meaningful way. Let us, today, commit ourselves to working together to bring about change for a better Guyana.
Just recently, in March 2013 at the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly which hosted the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women which was under the theme The Elimination and Prevention of All Forms of Violence Against Women and Girls, I had the distinct privilege and honour to represent Guyana and spoke on behalf to the Caribbean Community. During that presentation I highlighted the following and I wish to quote from that presentation:
“Violence against women remains a universal phenomena despite many recent developments. It is estimated that seven out of ten women experience some level of physical and sexual violence at some point in their lifetime. This speaks to a woefully deficient implementation of the measures adopted since the Beijing Platform and declaration for action to reverse the tide of significant mental trauma experienced by affected women on a daily basis.”
The problem that we face here in Guyana is not unique as compared to other CARICOM countries and it is also of great concert to governments of other member states of the community. As we in this House this evening move forward in our efforts in addressing violence, we must adopt a multi-sectoral approach, engaging Government and all political and civil society players. The media must have an important role to play in the sensitisation of this issue through the promotion of positive messages; not putting on the front page the body of a woman that was killed. I would like to call upon all Members of this National Assembly to unequivocally condemn all forms of interpersonal violence and let us reaffirm our previous commitment to the implementation also of the Parliamentary Resolution No. 72 of December, 2008 against violence against women and children which was unanimously passed in this House.
In closing, I wish to say that as we in this House work towards unanimity of this motion, let us commit ourselves to end violence in Guyana. Let us say ‘no’ to interpersonal violence. Let us be our brothers and sisters keepers. I thank you. [Applause]
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