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Women parliamentarians lead the way as House condemns domestic violence with one voice

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Posted: Saturday, February 5, 2022. 3:41 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The House of Representatives spoke in one voice condemning domestic, gender-based and intimate partner violence in all its forms and has resolved to take significant steps to address it as a matter of national importance.

In tabling the motion, Minister of Human Development, Families and Indigenous People’s Affairs Dolores Balderamos Garcia cited statistics from the Belize Crime Observatory as follows: at least 60 percent of Domestic Violence cases registered during 2020, were the result of intimate partner violence; and during January to November 2021, there were 2,155 reports of domestic violence to the police where 78 percent of these reports were made by females and 32 percent of these cases are open cases.

The other two elected women parliamentarians present on Friday, Albert’s Tracey Taegar-Panton and Corozal Bay’s Elvia Vega-Samos, put their support on the record for the motion.

Taegar-Panton stated, “Gender-based violence is not only a women’s issue, even though the statistics may indicate that many more women are likely to report cases of gender-based violence than men. As we in the National Assembly bring greater visibility of these issues on behalf of the Belizean people, objectivity and a sense and unity of purpose must prevail. I’m reminded of that sound piece of advice from the civil rights activists, Martin Luther King Jr., who declared it’s always the right time to do the right thing. Let me be emphatically clear that in my view, bringing this motion to the National Assembly is absolutely the right thing to do at the right time.”

She repeated her personal condemnation of violence in all its forms but warned that there must be more than lip service: “Legal aid is not free, and while it is subsidized, women who live on the margins find it very difficult to access the services of the Legal Aid Department. While the measures outlined in the motion are essential and perhaps long overdue, there must be a sustainable pathway, an effective way for victims to get the intervention and support that they need when they have to endure any kind of violence.”

Taegar-Panton recommended an extension of the Spotlight Initiative funded by the European Union and United Nations (borne under the Dean Barrow administration), which provides funding for intervention and protection of victims of gender-based violence and make use of the better-funded, re-organized Women’s Department and National Women’s Commission to coordinate plans and funding for projects on the issue, particularly in the area of counseling which she said was under resourced and understaffed. Political expediency must not get in the way, she concluded.

Vega-Samos, Minister of State under Balderamos-Garcia, cited that of eleven cases in Corozal Town in 2019, six requested enrolment in case management support. Too often, she said, the accuser is made to believe that they are part of the problem – a problem that would go away if the case is dropped. The trend continues in 2020 and 2021, she added; but training in self-defense and collaboration with the Ministry of Education to reach out to children are underway.

She reiterated the current administration’s commitment to rooting out the issue and the worth of the fairer sex: “We were not made to be beaten; we were made to be loved and to be cared for, and not live in fear.”

 

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