KINGTOWN, St. Vincent — More women have been killed and reportedly raped in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) than anywhere else in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) since 2000, a meeting of female leaders in Trinidad heard last month.
And Opposition Leader in Kingstown, Arnhim Eustace, said on Monday that this is “very serious issue” that must be corrected”, adding that the statistics “is also, to some extent, telling me how we perceive women and the role of women in our society”.
Eustace was baffled by the extent of crime against women in SVG relative to its OECS neighbours, saying, “We have the same types of economies. We have the same types of people. What is it about us that makes that happen?”
Yasmin Solitahe Odlum of the Inter-American Commission cited official statistics from OECS governments that shows there were 802 cases of rape and 55 sex crimes and incest against minors in SVG during the past 10 years.
She was addressing the first Caribbean Regional Colloquium of Women Leaders as Agents of Change in Port of Spain.
The meeting was attended by female leaders from across the region, including Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and Sen. Anesia Baptiste of SVG.
The 802 cases of rape in SVG, according to Odlum, compare to 569 cases in Antigua and Barbuda; 587 in St. Lucia; 317 in Grenada; 153 in Dominica, and 128 in St. Kitts and Nevis.
In terms of rape and sexual assault, the Caribbean is higher than the global average of 15 cases per 100,000 residents.
In SVG, since 2000, there were 43 cases of women being killed — femicides, 17 of which resulted from intimate partner violence.
This compares to 17 in St. Lucia, 11 in Dominica — including four minors, two case of which were mothers killing their daughters; and eight femicides each in Antigua and Barbuda and St. Kitts and Nevis
“I think it is important that we pay attention to those types of figures,” Eustace said, adding that the numbers “do not present our country in a very good light”.
He noted a link between the economy and crime but said other Caribbean nations had not registered similar crimes against women even as their economies also shrunk.
Eustace said that the Ralph Gonsalves government blocked the “Social, Spiritual and Redemption Charter” that the opposition tabled in Parliament in 2003.
The document was intended “to take a look at crime in a more holistic way than we are presently doing” and contained proposals for policing and financial support for organisation that instil positive attributes in young people, such as the Cadets, Girl Guides and Scouts
“We need, through our education system, through our churches and all the various institutions in our country, through parents and so on, to instil values in our young people and our children, which are more in line with what we need — Christian type values,” Eustace said.
“Because, if continue at the rate that we are going, then even our economic performance can also be affected by our crime … because people would not want to come here and invest neither,” he added.
Eustace further noted that some experts say that only about one-third of all crimes are reported to law enforcers.
He said he hoped the figures will “makes us think a little more about what we are doing in terms of the formulation of policy to deal with these problems in our society.
“The government has to take the lead on this, make some decisions in our country aimed at addressing the issue because it is a serious issue and I am sure that this revelation will mean that more people will dig now to find out what is behind all of this. And, we ought to do so; no question about that.”