Rape and other forms of gender-based violence have continued to be a major hindrance to the holistic development of women and girls in a safe, respectful and caring place. The increase in the levels of human rights violations, especially as it relates to women and girls in our society has signalled an urgent need for policy makers to ensure that victims have all the legal, social and political protection that is necessary. Alarmingly, there are an overwhelming number of unreported cases in which the victims live in constant fear of their lives. More so, these innocent victims face unprecedented and overbearing challenges in their effort to recover from these traumatic experiences.
Felicia Browne who is a human and gender rights advocate believes that, what we are observing in the case of St. Vincent and Trinidad are some of the traditional difficulties that rape victims endure when the justice system has failed them. Too often, she states, victims are blamed for their rape or chastised by persons who may not understand the traumatic experiences that they suffer at the hands of the rapist.
“How long will we make victims criminals for speaking out on the injustice that have been done to them?” she says. And how often will young girls be raped and murdered, while certain sectors in our society continue to chastise them for being a female? This type of behavior and culture must stop, she says. “It should not continue to plague the lives of our women and girls. We should provide the protection that is needed — legal, social and political.
Browne says that no government should allow any of its citizens to violate the rights of others- especially women and children with impunity. It is very disturbing when such matters are dismissed or used for political mileage — rather than to utilise the experiences of rape victims as an opportunity to make the necessary interventions that are desperately needed within the Caribbean region. There is nothing more harmful than to reveal the identity of a victim — in particular one who wishes to have remained anonymous.”
Browne is of the belief that the absence of effective legislation to protect gender-based violence victims is a further violation of their rights to be safe and secure in their person. The government and human agencies should enact legislation that will severely punish the offenders of such unconscionable acts against our women folk regardless of their social, economic and political station in society.
Women and children should be protected against all forms of violence — including public ridicule by government officials. There is no justice in rape shaming or the deprivation of state protection for victims. The use of social and other media to silence the voice of victims should become something of the past. We should work collectively to ensure that women’s rights are upheld by the state and citizens. This is no justification in shaming victims of rape — or the need to silence them.