By Heather Sutton
As we near the International day to End Violence Against Women, it is important to recognize how little is actually known about the issue in the Caribbean. The impact of violence on different gender groups (men, women, boy and girls) is still understudied particularly where high levels of urban violence have led to understandable focus on the number of homicides, which is the case for the Caribbean.
While they are less frequently victims of lethal violence, women do suffer disproportionately from intimate partner violence and sexual violence and may be repeatedly victimized, or severely traumatized.
Violence against women is more difficult than other types of violence and crime to measure. We tend to lack the special surveys that estimate prevalence in the Caribbean. We do know that there is widespread acceptance of traditional gender norms and the use of violence, which are often linked to higher levels of violence against women in societies. For example, 30% of Jamaican women are likely to agree that woman have an obligation to have unwanted sex with their husband, twice the level for their peers from Latin America.
If you ask Caribbean adults about a husband hitting his wife, one in four (27.5% of males and 22.6% of females) say they would approve or understand if she neglects the household chores.
If a man’s wife neglects the household chores, would you approve of the husband hitting his wife, or would you not approve but understand, or would you neither approve nor understand?
More than one out of three would approve or understand if the wife were unfaithful (39% of males and 30% of females). Of these, 86% (88% males and 82% females) report having been physically disciplined themselves as children.
If a man’s wife is unfaithful, would you approve of the husband hitting his wife, or would you not approve but understand, or would you neither approve nor understand?
Population-based studies from countries around the world have demonstrated that attitudes tolerating partner violence are highly predictive of the violence occurring.
The good news is that there is evidence to suggest that interventions to change norms and behaviour can have a positive effect of reducing levels of physical and sexual violence against women. Caribbean countries would be wise to invest in some of these evidence-based programs. Not only is it imperative to start protecting the rights of women, but preventing violence in the home can also stop children from growing up with increased aggression and emotional problems, which may prevent perpetration of violence and delinquency later in life.
Photo credit: Flickr CC Sue Kellerman
This post was updated with links and the author’s bio