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close this bookViolence Against Women in the Caribbean: State and Non-State Responses (UNIFEM, 1998, 110 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentAbout the Author
View the documentAcknowledgements
View the documentPreface
View the documentIntroduction
Open this folder and view contents1. Violence against Women in the Caribbean: An Overview
View the document2. Violence against Women as a Violation of Women’s Human Rights: International Developments
Open this folder and view contents3. Regional Responses to Violence against Women
Open this folder and view contents4. Conclusion and Recommendations
View the documentEndnotes
View the documentAcronyms
Open this folder and view contentsAPPENDICES
View the documentSelect Bibliography on Violence against Women in the Caribbean


UNIFEM is committed to women’s development and to the campaign to recognise women’s rights as human rights. We are also committed to the Platform for Action coming out of the Fourth World Conference on Women. To this end, in the post-Beijing era, UNIFEM has decided to direct its resources and activities towards two thematic programme areas, namely Women’s Economic Empowerment and Women’s Political Empowerment. The Political Empowerment programme includes a sub-programme on Human Rights under which violence against women falls.

This publication is part of the UNIFEM Caribbean Office’s Capacity Building on Gender in the Caribbean Project launched in 1995. The project consists of a series of policy studies and advocacy activities. It aims to provide a wider understanding of gender issues in the region among institutions, groups and the public.

The Commonwealth Caribbean selected violence against women as one of its priority areas of concern in the process leading up to the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, September, 1995). As a result, the UNIFEM Caribbean Office decided that this would be the subject of the first policy study carried out under the project’s aegis. Roberta Clarke, an attorney-at-law with a special interest in violence against women, readily agreed to work with us on this study. She has also worked with a regional women’s organisation on a Women and the Law Project in several countries. We asked her to identify the current situation relating to violence against women in the English-speaking Caribbean and Suriname and to determine possible areas for future action.

Ms. Clarke used secondary sources of data because of the limited resources available to the project for this exercise. The National Reports prepared for the Fourth World Conference on Women were a major source of information. Ms. Clarke’s own knowledge and extensive work in this area were also valuable sources of information.

On 25 November 1995, the International Day against Violence to Women, the UNIFEM Caribbean Office organised a National Seminar in Barbados. Ms. Clarke presented the study’s preliminary findings to this seminar through a paper titled “Violence against Women: The Usefulness of the Human Rights Discourse.” This seminar generated much interest with representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs), government and interested individuals attending. They raised some critical issues at that time and offered recommendations for follow-up action.

In this study, the author explores issues such as the incidence of violence against women in the Caribbean context and its possible causes. She documents the international campaign that resulted in violence against women being recognised as a crime and a violation of women’s human rights. International conventions and declarations and their legal effect on states are also analysed. She then examines the legal responses to sexual offences, domestic violence, incest and sexual harassment in the region, including recent legislative reform in various territories. Other kinds of state response to violence against women are examined. Ms. Clarke includes actions by the various government departments - primarily, the police departments and the Bureaux of Women’s Affairs. The responses of non-governmental organisations to the problem of violence against women are then examined. The author suggests that state actions “aimed at the eradication of violence against women are a direct consequence of sustained campaigns by women’s organisations in the region....” The Trinidad and Tobago case is examined in some detail. Women there have come up against a lot of pressure in their work to advocate for legal changes and to heighten the public’s awareness of the issue. Apart from this kind of advocacy, the main responses of NGOs are the establishment of crisis centres and shelters, actions which are briefly analysed by Ms. Clarke. The author concludes her study by suggesting that the issue of violence against women has brought Caribbean women together. She suggests that the challenge is one of sustaining and deepening the activism and of demanding of “the region’s governments an integrated and comprehensive response to eliminating gender discrimination and violence against women.”

Various recommendations to governments and non-governmental organisations are put forward. The publication also contains statistical data and human rights instruments on violence against women. A list of regional organisations working in the area of violence against women and a select bibliography are included.