Home / View Point / Letters to the Editor / Dear editor: ‘Women and children deserve to feel safe!’ Three ways to address gender-based violence

Dear editor: ‘Women and children deserve to feel safe!’ Three ways to address gender-based violence

“[…] The reality of Trinidad and Tobago does not allow women and girls to enter into public spaces without experiencing some form of fear and discomfort.

“Socialisation of our men and boys must be acknowledged as a significant contributor to violence against women and girls, which must be addressed with urgent meaningful action…”

The following release, which suggests three ways that the Trinidad and Tobago government can create a safer space for women and girls, was submitted to Wired868 by Caribbean Feminist founder Sapphire Alexander:

Photo: Andrea Bharatt, 23, went missing on 29 January 2021. Her body was found in the Heights of Aripo on 4 February 2021.

Within the last six years, over 500 women and girls have been brutally murdered. As a community, we are collectively mourning the recent loss of 23-year-old, Andrea Bharatt. 

Violence against women and girls is a national epidemic which should be a priority and requires immediate action by the government of Trinidad and Tobago.

As a collective of young feminist organisations, groups and individuals, we wish to thrive in a nation that is safe for everyone, especially women and girls. We deserve to live in a country where we are free to live, with the absence of fear for ourselves and those around us. 

We call on the state to take immediate action in addressing violence against women and girls in Trinidad and Tobago.

The reality of Trinidad and Tobago does not allow women and girls to enter into public spaces without experiencing some form of fear and discomfort. Socialisation of our men and boys must be acknowledged as a significant contributor to violence against women and girls, which must be addressed with urgent meaningful action.

Photo: A demonstration against gender-based violence.
(Copyright Getty)

It is not enough to issue statements of grief and apology. These statements must be matched with commitments and plan to effect change and to create a safer society where women and girls feel comfortable and confident to exist in our nation. 

As a feminist collective, we have devised three main demands of action from our government and opposition to work together to implement:

Reform of the Public Transport System:  All registered public transport vehicles must be equipped with digital tracking systems and surveillance cameras to ensure greater safety of passengers and drivers.

The Ministry of Works and Transport must provide incentives and educational campaigns to PH/H drivers, especially those in rural communities, to become registered and must then work with the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) to penalise all unregistered vehicles operating as taxis.  In addition to these recommendations, drivers must undergo gender-based violence training annually.

Police Reform: Engage all stakeholders in revamping the police and judicial systems. Review and strengthen the police complaints mechanisms. Train all police officers in the areas of gender-based violence, women’s rights and the law.

Photo: Teenager Ashanti Riley was raped and murdered, after taking a taxi to visit her grandmother on 29 November 2020.

The attorney general, the minister of national security and the commissioner of police must work together to develop systems to ensure that police prosecutors adhere to their duties and are accountable to the state and its citizens.

Public Education Reform: The public education curriculum must be revamped to include gender studies from the primary school level to ensure that students gain knowledge on understanding how their actions and behaviours can affect them and those around them.

Civil society must be meaningfully consulted and included in every step of the process in developing solutions to make Trinidad and Tobago, a country that champions the end of gender-based violence. 

Citizens of Trinidad and Tobago must be taught how they must respect each other and work towards ending gender stereotypes and reinforcing harmful behaviour that perpetuates rape culture and other forms of violence.

Photo: A woman marches to highlight gender-based violence.
(via Amnesty International)

We look forward to working with our nation’s leadership to create a better and brighter future—one that ensures that there is safety for all. We trust that we will receive a meaningful response from our leaders on this matter. 

We will continue to work towards ending gender-based violence in Trinidad and Tobago.

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