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Cayman Islands Government

16 Days of Activism

Message by Minister for Community Affairs, Gender and Housing Hon. Mike Adam, MBE, JP

25 November 2011

Included among the issues that lie beneath the surface of our daily lives is the often-silent scourge of gender-based violence. This remains a significant problem affecting the Cayman Islands, as it does societies worldwide.

Gender-based violence both reflects and reinforces inequities between men and women and compromises the health, dignity, security and autonomy of its victims. It encompasses a wide range of human rights violations, including sexual abuse of children, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment, trafficking of women and girls and several harmful traditional practices.

For these reasons, I urge the people of these Islands to take a firm stance during this year's 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence campaign.

An American organization, Centre for Women's Global Leadership (CWGL), launched this international campaign 21 years ago. Since then, it has prompted individuals and groups around the world to call for the elimination of all forms of violence.

This year's observance begins on 25 November - the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women - and continues through 10 December, which is International Human Rights Day.

The 2011 theme is From Peace in the Home to Peace in the World: Let's Change Militarism and End Violence Against Women. It focuses on how "peace in the home" can extend outwards to equate to "peace in the world".

Globally, violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread violations of human rights.

This has far-reaching consequences, harming families and communities. According to the United Nations, gender-based violence is experienced by up to 70 % of women in their lifetime. It is estimated that worldwide, one in five women will experience rape or attempted rape. Women aged 15-44 are more at risk from rape and domestic violence than from cancer, car accidents, war, and malaria.

Here in Cayman, we cannot ignore these unfortunate facts, but must recognize the impact that these issues have on our society and find solutions. Ignorance is no excuse.

During this campaign, the Department of Counseling Services' Family Resource Centre, has partnered with the Business and Professional Women's Club Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac to help our people understand these issues and the challenges we face.

Society, as a whole, plays a crucial role in developing peaceful understandings and collective safety. While there are many helpful tools and resources, public participation is key. With the recent passage of the new Gender Equality Law, we are looking to create a legal framework that promotes the spirit of equality between men and women in the workplace and with other matters. It is only by working together can we create an equal future for our sons and daughters.

And let's us not forget that men are also victims of domestic violence, and have their own gender issues. Before it's too late, we must reach out to our men, and encourage them to be a part of the solution.

As we join in this effort, we are aware that this campaign calls for an end to violence against women, children, and any other human rights infractions.

Fortunately, the people of the Cayman Islands do not suffer the devastation torn by war or terrorism. However, we know that there are victims of gender-based violence even in our small communities.

Behind closed doors, too many homes are war zones, leaving families scarred and bruised, with some living in emotional turmoil. However, we continue to work in the hope of eliminating this problem.

I take this opportunity to reflect on the togetherness of earlier days in Cayman while remembering that in recent times we have seen a growth in violence, particularly involving our youth.

It is concerning that today an increasing threat to the lives of our children and adolescents is violence. Every citizen must therefore assume a measure of responsibility to reduce these incidents. The change we want to see must start within ourselves.

So, once again, I applaud the Business and Professional Women's Club for leading this campaign by working alongside other local organizations to raise the level of awareness about gender-based violence. Your hard work truly deserves our appreciation.

Let us unite and support efforts against gender violence and in doing so, help build peaceful and safe communities.

For further information contact: Yvette Cacho