December 5, 2014
Shadow report claims that SVG does not provide ‘adequate protection’ for women against violence and abuse

A shadow report has been presented to the United Nations (UN) which asserts that the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines is not doing enough to protect its female population from abuse and violence.{{more}}

The shadow report titled, ‘Violence Against Women and Girls,’ was produced by the Université du Québec à Montréal’s International Clinic for the Defence of Human Rights, and was presented to the UN’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) at its 61st session last month.

The researchers, who spent a year in SVG collecting information, described the issue as a “cultural epidemic,” which they claim is exacerbated by the lack of adequate laws to fully protect women and children.

In the shadow report, it states that the definitions of rape and incest are “extremely narrow,” and that the “inadequate” enforcement of protection and occupation orders creates a “climate of impunity for perpetrators of violence.”

In August 2013, the Government of SVG submitted a periodic report (covering the period 1995 – 2010) to CEDAW, which was the impetus behind the Quebec-based researchers’ shadow report.

Having become a member, in 1981, of the UN’s 1979 Convention to End Discrimination and Violence against Women, this is only SVG’s second report submitted to the committee.

SVG’s report acknowledges that violence against women and girls is a serious issue, explaining that analyses have shown that gender-based violence is “systemically linked to the inequality of power relations which result in discrimination against women.”

The report states that there are several laws, including the Domestic Violence (Summary Proceedings) Act, Cap 228, that protect against “physical violence, mental injury and harassment.” However, it acknowledged that the Act does not provide a “comprehensive definition” of domestic violence, and therefore, cannot be used to protect against psychological abuse and sexual violence.

In addition to identifiying the state’s shortcomings on the issue, SVG’s report outlines a number of measures currently being taken to tackle the problem, as well as measures to be implemented in future.

The report states that in 2001, SVG ratified the International Labour Organization Discrimination (employment and occupation) Convention 1958 (No. 111) and the ILO Equal Remuneration Convention 1951 (No. 100) in an attempt to end discrimination against women in the workplace.

Additionally, SVG also ratified the ILO Employment Policy Convention 1964 (no. 122) in 2010 – among others.

However, the shadow report asserts that the stereotyping and under- or unemployment of women is prevalent in SVG, and makes them “particularly vulnerable to domestic violence.”

In addition to this, the shadow report claims that police officers receive little or no training on violence against women – making them behave in an insensitive manner when dealing with victims.

However, SVG’s report states that sensitization training is carried out for police officers, and has become part of the curriculum for the training of new police recruits.

Both SVG’s report and the shadow report acknowledge that data on the issue is collected by several departments and institutions, but that this data is neither pooled nor disaggregated by age and sex.

However, coordinator of Gender Affairs Polly Oliver recently told SEARCHLIGHT that a new system of data collection, which will focus on disaggregating data, was put in place this year, and will be readily available by 2016.

In addition, the shadow report states that access to justice is not affordable, and that there are “flagrant prejudices and discrimination against women in non-marital unions,” which according to a 2001 census makes up the majority of unions in SVG.

Furthermore, even though the shadow report states that the Government is fully cognizant of the issue of violence against women, it asserts that the Government does “little to change the mentalities of the population”.(JSV)