Women’s Day Addresses Gender Justice
Across the world, March eight is observed as International Women’s Day. It is a day set aside to celebrate women’s achievements from political to social – and simultaneously calls for gender equality. The day brings together governments, women’s organizations, and other partners to highlight the activities. Today in Belize, to observe this global event, POWA and PETAL – two local N.G.O.s –teamed up to host a forum two sets of panels to discuss women’s movement in Belize from 1975 through to 1999. Principal among the topics discussed included violence against women, gender justice, as well as where Lesbian and Bi-sexual women fit into the gender conventions and legislations. News Five’s Andrea Polanco was at today’s event.
As the world celebrates International Women’s Day on March eight, Belize commemorates the global event with a forum taking critical look at the women’s movement and gender justice. Two areas of discussion are the Women’s Domestic Act and the Gender Policy. One of the co-organizers of the event is PETAL – a local organization that lobbies for equality for lesbian and bi-sexual women.
Simone Hill, Coordinator, PETAL
“One of the things is sexual reproductive health issues. We did a survey and this is what we found out women would more like us to speak out of especially where it concerns legal issues as to how the laws affect them or don’t affect them. And also as it relates to relationship issues – to speak on it.”
“As it relates to the Gender Policy; do you think this is inclusive of the women in the LGBT community; the issues are included or properly addressed in there?”
“To some extent – that is the reason why we are looking at this forum and want that to come out more. We know that the churches are clamoring about the gender policy and things like that. But, looking at life and things like that – something I have always said – we are humans. Belize has signed on to many conventions, but we should have rights as all citizens and not just be labeled as an LGBT person but as a human being and a citizen of this country.”
And that is why the discussion of gender justice remains a priority – it is, after all, a human right; every woman and girl is entitled to live in dignity and in freedom, without any fear. Gender Justice is at the center of development, poverty reduction, and is crucial to achieving human progress. And as Michele Irving explains, it is also about power and responsibility between women and men at home and across all other spaces.
Michele Irving, Coordinator, POWA
“When we talk about gender justice, we talk about a system that is created by the family, the market and the state to ensure that women, men, boys and girls are represented equally and not one over the other. So, basically, I am looking in different areas and focusing on four areas – immigration, HIV/AIDS, education and the justice system, so see where we are as it relates to achieving gender justice.”
“What would you say are some of the challenges as it relates to gender justice in the area of say HIV/AIDS, for example?”
“Okay. When we look at HIV, our national numbers are showing, for example, that more men in Belize are infected than women. However, where I work, in the Stann Creek District, we have a ration of three women to one man that is affected. So, we look at it in our view is the feminization of HIV that has continued for quite some time. Not only is that so, we but we also have the district with the highest cases of deaths from AIDS. So, we want to get down to maybe the community level to understand what is going on in the communities and then to be able to sit and sensibly plot a way forward. When women die they leave children most of the time; children grow up with the trauma of their parents death. The trauma leaves them at risk to repeat those behaviors, put them at risk of HIV, or to have some early pregnancy or have some other issue as well. For the young men, sometimes they are at risk to join a gang, engage in criminal activity; because they are traumatized from the experiences they are having. So, we also have to understand the ripple effect of what happen and the issue of stigma and discrimination.”
Statistics show that one out of every three women globally is affected by violence during her lifetime – a situation that is more dismal in developing countries. The World Health Organization says that roughly thirty eight percent of the murders of women are committed by a make intimate partner – for this reason specific pieces of legislation are needed for better protection– for Belize the domestic violence act is one such piece of legislation.
Dolores Balderamos-Garcia, Attorney
“There are increased penalties for breach; there are increased categories for persons who can apply; there are occupation orders; tenancy orders; For example, the occupation orders are used in a domestic violence situation – one of the partners can actually be ordered to leave the home; the family court has full jurisdiction over who is to live in a house; what period of time; because of the attitude of protecting the family. In the US, they call it restraining order. In Belize we call it protection order.”
Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.