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Gender Abuse: Zero Tolerance!

Mr Anthony S Eden, OBE, JP, MLA
Second Elected Member for Bodden Town

Violence against women is one of the most globally perpetrated human rights violations.

—Honourable Anthony S. Eden, OBE, JP.

Message by the Honourable Anthony S. Eden, OBE, JP,

Minister for Health and Human Services

16 Days of Activism Against Gender Abuse Campaign

Every year, organisations and governments all over the world strive to raise awareness about the pervasiveness of violence against women during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence Campaign. The 2008 international theme of "Human Rights for Women - Human Rights for All", reflects the fact that it is the right of every human being to live a life free from violence, and violence against women is one of the most globally perpetrated human rights violations.

Beginning on the International Day to Eliminate Against Violence Against Women, 25th November, and ending on the International Human Rights Day, 10th December, we expect that the next 16 days will raise our level of awareness about this violation, as well as motivate victims to come forward and seek the help that is available to them.

For over a decade, the Business and Professional Women's Club, in conjunction with other government and non-government organizations, have utilized this 16 Days Campaign to speak out on these issues in the Cayman Islands. I applaud the organizations of the 16 Days Committee which consist of the Business and Professional Women's Club, the Women's Resource Centre and the Department of Children and Family Services for dedicating their time and efforts to ensure that the Cayman Islands lends its support to this global initiative.

In an effort to expand the range of the international campaign by also addressing issues of domestic abuse, the local campaign is called 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Abuse and the local theme is Gender Abuse: Zero Tolerance from Childhood to Adult.

Given the recent circumstances surrounding the tragic death of Estella Scott-Roberts, an outstanding women's advocate, and the high profile cases of sexual violation of our young children, we unfortunately, know all too well about the consequences of gender violence and child sexual abuse in the Cayman Islands.

We must not allow the 'Culture of Silence' and denial to surround this sort of violence and abuse; we must not offer this level of protection to the perpetrators, nor unintentionally prolong the suffering of the victims, through our silence.

I know that much can be achieved in this area, if we gain the goodwill of the average person, and if we can count on their abhorrence towards abusive situations. Unfortunately, one of the real challenges in bringing about changes in this area, is that persons often do not recognize that their own behaviour may at times be perpetuating abuse. We may say it is none of our business, when we see a neighbour or acquaintance being affected.

We may even be struggling in situations with our own children, the younger ones, and the adults too - or other close family, and either we may not admit what we see, or feel helpless to do anything about it. What this campaign says is that this is not good enough; that anyone in such a situation deserves better, and that help is available; the first step is to be honest about what we are faced with, and to resolve to do something about it.

As the Minister for Gender Affairs I am pleased to say that our Government has chosen to speak out. We have joined some 60 other governments, as well as many other organizations and individuals around the world, by endorsing the United Nations Development Fund for Women's (UNIFEM) Say NO to Violence Against Women Campaign. This internet-based awareness and advocacy campaign located at has served as a platform for over a million concerned people to add their names to a global call to action that the issue of gender based violence must be a top priority.

Given our Government's desire for a peaceful society for all women, men and children in the Cayman Islands, I am pleased that the Cayman Islands can be counted among those countries that are speaking out on this issue.

In addition to endorsing this international campaign, you will recall that in October 2008 the Cayman Islands Government sanctioned the establishment of a Special Advisory Committee on Gender Violence that will recommend to the Government, both short and long term solutions to strategically address this issue. The report from this Special Advisory Committee will be handed over to the Cayman Islands Government today.

I take this opportunity to publicly thank those who worked tirelessly on this committee, for their dedication to finding more effective ways to work towards eliminating gender violence, child abuse and domestic abuse from our shores.

I also must recognise and commend the efforts of the many agencies and persons, both within the Government and civil society, who work diligently day-in and day-out with the victims and perpetrators of the crime of gender violence and domestic abuse. The work of these agencies, as well as their collaborative efforts, makes an invaluable contribution to tackling manifestations of gender inequality, and the ripple effect it has in our society.

Finally, I invite all individuals, families, government agencies and non-government organisations to support the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Abuse Campaign by participating in the special events being organized. Whether it is wearing a ribbon, attending a church service, painting a t-shirt for the Clothesline Project, or attending a workshop, we must all do our part to sustain the messages behind this important campaign.

I trust that we all will put our support behind this issue not only through December 10th when the campaign officially concludes, but in the following months and years to come. God bless us all.