Learning from international tribunals in Rwanda and former Yugoslavia to shape local law and practices to eliminate violence against women in the Caribbean
Barbados, October 12, 2010
Feminist International Radio Endeavour/Radio Internacional Feminista
Two judges of the International Tribunals in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia discussed how these proceedings were critical in laying the legal groundwork regarding violence against women, speaking on a panel on the first day of the Conference “Strengthening Accountability and Changing Culture to End Violence against Women in the Caribbean” held in Barbados, Oct. 11-12, 2010.
The tribunals set important precedents regarding rape as a war crime and a human rights violation, according to Judge Patrick Robinson, President, International Criminal Court for Former Yugoslavia, and Sir Dennis Byron, President, International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, speaking at the Caribbean launching of the UN Secretary General’s Campaign, “UNITED to End Violence Against Women.“
In a comment after the panel, West Indies University Professor Rhoda Reddock highlighted the need to take the best legal practices from the International Courts on treatment of violence against women, and bring them to the local level in Caribbean courts. One example is the way in which children do not have to take the stand to testify.
At a later plenary entitled, “The Context of Violence: Causes, Costs and Consequences,”
Rhoda Reddock made broader connections related to gender violence by discussing the way in which neoliberalism and fundamentalism have impacted people’s lives in The Caribbean. “For the past 20 years those policies have removed social provisions by reducing public expenditure, privatizing services and reducing trade unions and labor movements,” she declared.
Reddock noted that these cutbacks have contributed to a deterioration of social life and increasing disparities between rich and poor. The result is greater fear and insecurity, which in some cases has created support for a militaristic response. “Insecurity makes people accept the military as saviors.” Likewise, Reddock said that globalized media has normalized violence, and has also contributed to a concept of masculinity that is linked to violence.
Reddock added that these issues have to be brought to public attention together with an analysis of the way in which militarization affects women. She also called for a media alliance against violence.
Dr. Rosina Wiltshire, CARICOM Advocate for Gender Justice, addressed the issue of building a culture of peace by highlighting the need to shift paradigms. Her presentation focused on the the specific construction of masculinity that African Americans carry historically in light of slavery.
She contended that Caribbean people suffer a “mental slavery” that includes being accustomed to a level of violence that is unnatural, born out of their slave history in which violence was a norm. “When the abnormal becomes normal, it requires some dramatic shift in people’s awareness to take them to a new level of consciousness that says that violence is not right; it must not happen in our homes, in our societies, in our nation, and that it does not represent who we are as a country and who we want to be,” declared Wiltshire.
She said there is urgent need to begin a healing process in society: “First at the societal level, there must be acknowledgement of the problem, and from that acknowledgement, identify what we have to do, beginning with parents, the educational system, the health system, the legal system and the policy system. At every level building peaceful homes and a peaceful society requires systematic reform so that we can fix what is ailing. If we don’t fix the problem at its beginning point in the home, it is likely to take us into a really destructive path.”
Wiltshire continued, “Yes it takes one step at a time, but I want to see everyone taking the step because women alone can’t do it, a few enlightened men alone can’t do it, a few enlightened judges, policemen, teachers, social workers, can’t do it. It has to be that we all wake up so that we can start taking some giant steps towards healing our society and healing our world.”
Peter Weller, psychologist and a founder oftheCaribbean Men’s Action Network (CARIMAN) addressed the role of men in ending violence, discussing how his organization has promoted a united effort between men and women against violence. His organization deals with gender construction of masculinity, seeing gender as a social justice issue, not only focused on women’s equality. Weller proposed strengthening such alliances.
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