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Nov 21, 2016

Students Unmask the Many Faces of Gender Based Violence in Discussion

Gender based violence is a major public health issue and one of the most widespread violations of human rights, but cases are highly unreported and victims continue to suffer in silence. A forum today provided a platform for eight students from four high schools in Belize City to report on their research and experiences with gender based violence. News Five’s Duane Moody reports.


Duane Moody, Reporting

“Unmasking the Many Faces of Gender Based Violence” – that’s the theme for this year’s Sixteen Days of Activism organized by agencies addressing this issue that affects women, children and the society. Today, prior to a candle light vigil to launch the annual activities, the Special Envoy for Women and Children in collaboration with the Women’s Department, the United Nations Development Program and the United Nations hosted the first ever student discussion about gender based violence entitled “Let’s Have the Talk.”


Kim Simplis-Barrow

Kim Simplis-Barrow, Special Envoy for Women and Children

“It was real, it was raw, it was to the point; in your face. And that’s what we want. We want to know how much do they know and how willing are they to be a part of the elimination of gender based violence. And as you can see it was quite evident that they know a lot more than we thought they knew. Obviously gender based violence is very prevalent in our society and a lot of times, we turn a blind eye; a lot of times we just pretend it doesn’t exist—it is not happening to me. And I think the society is now ready to speak up.”


The students from Wesley College, Saint Catherine Academy, Saint John’s College and Edward P. Yorke broke the silence, speaking on challenges facing them as the youth including street harassment, sexual abuse and bullying. But is it a cultural issue? Where the roles of boys and girls are predetermined by traditional beliefs of the family? One student, sixteen year old Bernice Ramirez opened the discussion. A fourth former at Edward P Yorke High School, she plans on changing that stigma.


Bernice Ramirez

Bernice Ramirez, 4th Form Student, Edward P. Yorke

“At our school we have the peer helping program and we encounter these things on a regular basis. And finding the information and everything wasn’t that hard because we normally encounter it every day. But definitely we see this in our society, in our everyday lives and we are bringing awareness. One of the most prevalent issues is definitely teenage pregnancy; that most girls are locked up in silence, they fall in these traps, they start living with this guy and all of these things start to happen. So that was like one of the main triggering points that kept on showing in the research so that’s why we are trying to more bring to the awareness these things.”


While men were singled out primarily as the perpetrators of gender based violence, it is not always the case. According to Human Development Coordinator for Women and Children, Cynthia Williams, there are various forms of gender based violence. There are also various programs in place to assist victims, who may not know of the recourse – legal or otherwise – that can be accessed. Williams says that women, as well as men, are protected and they are coming forward for help.


Cynthia Williams

Cynthia Williams, Human Development Coordinator for Women & Children

“When it comes to the protection of victims and survivors of violence, we have the Domestic Violence Act that was enacted in 2007 and what that does it includes several aspects or several types of relationships, such as the visiting relationship, which was not included in the previous act. It strengthened penalties for perpetrators who break the protection orders. It also includes the scope of persons who can make the applications for victims in cases where they might not be able to get to the court. What it also did was also include the aspect of economic violence which includes persons who are controlled through finances, whose finances are withheld and in the previous act it wasn’t included either. So that is something we felt was important to add because often people only see physical violence, they don’t see the aspect of economic abuse as a form of abuse. But it is actually something that is perpetrated commonly between men and women.”


Kim Simplis-Barrow

“I think we are seeing more men being brave enough to report these incidences. I think that’s what we are seeing; we are opening up the avenue for men to say listen, I am being abused because remember before, no one wanted to talk about it; we just pretended that you know…it’s just I think now men are being brave enough to report a crime.”


Duane Moody for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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