Taking “Art Action” Against Domestic Violence
Reported cases of domestic violence are on the increase even though there are many that never make it to the police; and in other instances statements have been made, but then withdrawn. This morning, well known artist Briheda Haylock’s idea of an art action highlighted the abuse against women, children and men came to life in front of the Supreme Court. News Five’s Duane Moody reports from the Battlefield Park.
Duane Moody, Reporting
Today women from different walks answered a call for an art action by Briheda Haylock, who is studying in Indonesia. Their mouths were taped in solidarity with the women who continue to suffer in silence, their lives cut short and because enough is not said about the issue of domestic violence.
Katie Usher, Artist
“It is not a protest, it is not a demonstration, it is an art action…we are standing in front of the House of Legal Power, the Supreme Court of Belize, the Judiciary and we are saying that this violence against women and children must end. I don’t think it is falling on deaf ears, but I really definitely want to open some eyes this morning because it is a grave issue. Violence against women and children is also an issue that affects men and I think a lot of times, we exclude them from the discussion. But the time I think is more than ever—especially with what’s happening now—it’s time now for us to open our eyes and figure out what it is we are going to do.”
The statistics are damning….a survey conducted through the Women’s Department in Dangriga and Orange Walk in 2016 showed that twenty-two percent of women report physical or sexual abuse by current or previous partners and thirty-six percent of women have been physically hurt in their lifetime. As one of the key players within the response nationally for victims and survivors of violence on a daily basis, Cynthia Williams says it was important to come out in support of the event.
Cynthia Williams, Human Development Coordinator for Women & Children
“We do have a national gender based violence surveillance system that documents reported cases and that is where it is always an issue because it is limited information where you find every year, almost a thousand person, mostly females—women and girls—being the victims of violence whether it is sexual abuse, whether it is domestic violence. And what we don’t even measure is sexual harassment and cyber bullying and so the reports that we get are very minimal. Often the problem is that people do not make reports to their families, to their friends or even to the necessary authorities. So for us it is very important. It is about advocacy, it is about awareness, it is about outreach and this is one of the ways that we also do it.”
The office of the Special Envoy for Women and Children worked along with policymakers to strengthen the laws in place for sexual offenders, who commit heinous crimes against women, children, men and even young boys.
Kim Simplis-Barrow, Special Envoy for Women and Children
“For us it is really a continuation of our advocacy and to partner with other groups is crucial. I think that in partnership, it makes our message a lot more stronger and so I am very thankful to Katie and Briheda for putting this together and of course, my office is only happy to be here in support.”
“Talk to us about where we are in terms of ensuring that the rights of our children and women are protected?”
“I think that there are some sections that still need strengthening, still needs more teeth and I know that the AG office is working on those. One of the problems that we are facing right now is the cyber bullying and the online bullying. I think it has reached a point where it is out rightly disgusting. And thankfully the AG’s office is already working on the legislation to address just that. Of course we need the strengthening the police department, the D.P.P. and everywhere for this to be effective…it’s not only our laws but the strengthening of all the units to really give justice to victims.”
According to Katie Usher, who facilitated the art action on behalf of Haylock, there is need for a change, legally and socially.
“We need to not only deal with the issue legally, but deal with the issue socially. It’s the mindset that has to change. We could continue to send people to court. Just as we were standing here, this woman passed and said, “My daughter was killed at age twenty-eight.” Now if we could change our minds and change our hearts and we can have more women and children surviving and even men—because there are men who are victims of domestic violence as well. We need to address the issue.”
Duane Moody for News Five.