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Speaking up for the ‘disappeared’ women

Friday, March 9, 2018

On March 19, 2018 retired judge Paula-Mae Weekes will make history by becoming our first female president and will be the only female president in the region once Chile’s Michelle Bachelet leaves office on March 11, 2018. And so as we celebrate International Women’s Day, there is much our country has to be proud of.

We have had a female Prime Minister and now leader of the Opposition; the Speaker of the House of Representatives is a woman as is the President of the Senate. Throughout our country women have been breaking the glass ceiling and shattering the stereotypes that so many of our sisters around the world continue to suffer from, including the right to vote, to education and as strange as it may sound, to drive.

That being said there are many issues that continue to plague women in our society, most notably, domestic violence against women which has reached endemic levels. Data from the Crime And Problem Analysis (CAPA) Branch of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) revealed that there were approximately 11,441 reports relating to domestic violence incidents between 2010 and 2015. Approximately 75 per cent of these reports were related to female individuals. During the same period there were 131 domestic violence related deaths of which 56 per cent were female. And in 2018, so far 15 women have been murdered, mostly in domestic disputes.

Sadly, today as a nation we have become immune to this type of unacceptable behaviour and the loss of life caused as a result. How many more of our women and girls have to be savagely, beaten, raped and murdered by their husbands, fathers, neighbours and relatives? When is enough truly enough?

As friends, colleagues, families, neighbours, we need to be our sister’s keeper. We need to speak out when we see our sisters in trouble. We need to do our part no matter how small, to prevent this injustice from continuing. One loss of life is too much.

Which brings me to a topic that is rarely spoken about. Human trafficking and sexual exploitation. As we celebrate International Women’s day, it is important to speak out on behalf of all women and men who aren’t able to do so for themselves. The women, men, boys and girls who have seemingly vanished into thin air never to be seen or heard of again.

Why are we sweeping this growing problem under the carpet? According to the US Department of State 2017 Trafficking in Persons Report 2017, “As reported over the past five years, Trinidad and Tobago is a destination, transit, and source country for adults and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labour… Police corruption has in the past been associated with facilitating prostitution and sex trafficking.”

Far too often when women and young girls “disappear” the first response is “they run away with a man.” This attitude and approach sadly is the reason why hours and often days are allowed to pass by before anything is done and by then many victims have been taken out of the country.

This is a growing problem more so now with the illegal migration of people fleeing their countries. And so if we are to deal with the issue of Human trafficking those in charge of running our country at all levels, from central government to local government and law enforcement, the police, the Counter Trafficking Unit (CTU) the defence force, the coast guard and the air guard, all need to do their part in combating this mammoth problem that has become so rampant in our country. Where there is a will there is a way.

On a positive note, I commend the numerous NGOs that work tirelessly fighting to improve the rights and lives of all women in Trinidad and Tobago. Women in positions of power, now is the time to speak up for those who can’t do it for themselves. United we stand, divided we fall. Happy International Women’s Day to each and all of our Trinbagonian sisters.

Mickela Panday


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