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close this bookViolence Against Women in the Caribbean: State and Non-State Responses (UNIFEM, 1998, 110 p.)
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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

Introduction

Gender-based violence, or its threat, shapes the contours of every woman’s daily life, limiting the enjoyment of her fundamental human rights. As has been pointed out by Bunch, violence or the threat of violence confines where women go, what they do, curtailing their freedom of movement, speech and assembly, and undermining their sense of personhood and human dignity.1 Whilst all individuals are facing increased threat of personal violence the risk and the experience of violence is influenced by gender.2 In general, irrespective of whether the victim is male or female, predominantly the perpetrator is male. Secondly, men and women suffer different harms, the forms of these harms being determined by the sex of the victim. Thirdly, the perpetrator of violence is frequently motivated by issues of gender, like the need to enforce male power.

Gender-based violence has been defined by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women as “violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or which affects women disproportionately.” It is violence that perpetuates and exploits the dichotomy between women and men in order to assure the subordination and inferiority of women and all that is associated with the feminine.3

Violence against women is embedded in the context of cultural, socio-economic and political power relations. Caribbean societies, apart from being cleavaged by class and race divisions, are organised around hierarchical gender power relations with male domination reducing women to economic and emotional dependency. It is at the level of the family that this gender ideology is worked out primarily. The family, like other social institutions, continues to socialise its members to accept inequality between men and women and this inequality finds expression in the unequal division of labour and access to resources. One very potent weapon in this socialisation process is the use of violence against women. The family, as studies cross-culturally have clearly revealed, is a major site of violence.

The history of the Caribbean is one replete with violations and subordinations given the experience of slavery and colonialism. Still, it is only recently that the typology of the violence of the region has included gender violence, and more particularly, named abuse of women in the family as violence. Recent historical work documents how rape and other forms of violence were used as basic methods of control of women.4 Reddock, for example, speaks of the many murders of East Indian women by their partners in the late 19th century and early 20th century in what she interprets as the male response to women’s attempts to define their lives on their own terms.5