Our Readers' Opinions
September 21, 2007

Sexual violence against women a serious matter


Editor: I am disappointed at the Prime Minister’s attempt to party-politicize the debate stemming from the United Nations/World Bank report that Saint Vincent and Grenadines is among the world’s top 10 countries for recorded rape cases.

Consistent with my wish that this matter not be politicized in this way, I would like to make an observation on the government’s response by way of statistical information published in last week’s newspapers.{{more}} Such response not only demeans the argument, but serves to excuse the Prime Minister from reporting the government’s policy to honour its commitment as a signatory to the United Nation’s Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), and sex offences are one such manifestation of gender discrimination.

Further, all countries that have ratified CEDAW have an obligation to prepare four-yearly reports to the United Nations, and to include information about the law and incidence of gender violence, as well as measures undertaken to redress and eliminate it. Are we not entitled to know what was reported in our name and when such reports were made?

As a matter of fact, it is noteworthy that it is under the New Democratic Party administration that the Domestic Violence Act and the Equal Pay Act were implemented, in addition to the introduction of the Family Court and legal aid, which should serve to help those who can ill afford legal representation when seeking justice for these hideous crimes. Would it not have been more appropriate for us to know how effective these institutions are?

The other and most crucial point arising from the Government’s statistics is that the figures do not ‘add up’. In my attempt as a non-mathematician to reconstruct the table of statistics coming from the Prime Minister’s office, my findings could well be the source of further concern, and I include that table below:

OFFENCES 1991 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 August

59 49 51 43 60 66 87 50 35

under 15 – 49 26 24 37 34 25 27 29 9

4 2 3 9 4 4 3 6 3

Assault 77 68 61 25 87 98 90 67 42

11 6 6 3 5 3 2 4 1

200 151 145 117 190 196 209 156 90

The 2007 under-15-intercourse statistics has two numbers: 29 and 9. Therefore, in order to arrive at the Total of 90 cases of sex offences in 2007, we must use the number 9 which clearly demonstrates an average yearly decline of sex offences under the ULP administration, thus giving weight to my reconstruction of the table.

However, when adding the figures of 2005 and 2006, there is a discrepancy of 2 cases in each year, and more than that, this table does not include statistics on teenage pregnancy, which would be far more informative? Even if my attempt is faulty, providing statistics months after the UN/World Bank report was released in March 2007 is futile, especially if not comprehensible.

I also think it an insult to our intelligence that the only suggestion that is clear in the Prime Minister’s response is the average yearly decline of sexual crimes under the ULP administration, and little or nothing about what has been happening or what is to happen to address sexual crimes against women and girls. More specifically, how are we going to ensure that perpetrators among the high society groups in our society are caught and brought to justice in much the same way as those of less esteem? Because I am of the firm belief that these men need psychiatric treatment, I would like to read more about the government’s plan to provide rehabilitation programmes for sex offenders.

The matter of sexual violence against women is too serious to be waved off with statistics coming from the Prime Minister’s office, especially since these have already been studied and published by the United Nations and World Bank. What we need now is action and less pontification.

And since this administration seems bankrupt of ideas as to how to deal with this epidemic, I promise to make a few suggestions in my next letter on this matter.

Luzette King