By Theron Boodan, www.newsday.co.tt
In spite of intense focus on domestic violence, women continue to get more blows behind closed doors and sometimes in public. Their basic defence against such brutality is to seek a protection order from the court. Sometimes these orders keep the aggressive males at bay while in other instances, the order is broken with fatal results. At a workshop yesterday, attorney Gaietry Paragass, spoke about the increase in gender violence, especially domestic violence. She quoted court records in support of her contention and acknowledged that the figures could be much higher, having regard to scores of unreported cases. Paragass, speaking on "Gender Based Violence," organised by Caribbean Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA), noted that even though the law allowing husbands to beat their wives and children, and treat them as personal property, had been abolished "centuries" ago, the ideology still lives on and is strongly being propagated in Social Studies text books that are used by children in schools.
She said violence is mainly manifested out of gender inequality, and this manifestation cannot be measured but it can be seen. She further warned that violence sustains and maintains inequality, but it's not the way in which male authority is to be maintained. She explained that every society can still have male authority at home but without the violence. She said in the local courts there have been increasing reports and applications for protection orders by women against men. Over the last few years the courts have been keeping count of the number of applications for protection orders. In 1998/99 there were 5,042; 1999/02, 6554; 2000/01, 7,649; 2001/02, 8,852; 2002/03, 9,043 and 2003/04, 8,976. She accepted that there are many more cases that are not reported. Paragass, observed that the archaic ideology of male dominance and female subordination no longer belongs to today's world and must be eradicated. But in spite of the female struggle for equality, sexual harassment continues to plague the workplace.
Also, they are still clustered in low-paying income groups even though their academic qualifications are high. Paragass, who is also a member of CAFRA, recalled reading from a Social Studies text book that the role of a woman is to be a housewife and stay at home. She said what the text book was still doing was to categorise man as the breadwinner and woman, the subordinate housewife at home. But the reality of today's world, both males and females are breadwinners of the home, and in some cases only the woman is the breadwinner. Paragass told her audience that the school - education, was a very powerful serialising agent, and to tell a child at age five that his mother must stay at home and his father is responsible for discipline is internalising that ideology which is acted out later on. The workshop which was also sponsored in collaboration with the UWI, Centre for Gender and Development Studies, and the Women and Development Studies Group, held at Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies (SALISES), UWI, demanded that violence against women must stop now.
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