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As per the US Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for the year 2007, one in three Guyanese women has been a victim of domestic violence. In 2007, 3600 cases of domestic violence were reported. It is an issue (read – problem) that affects people irrespective of race and socio-economic background.

A National Conversation on Domestic Violence has been launched in Guyana on the 27th of June 2012.  This is a commendable initiative of the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security which is to be a partnership between them and NGO’s, the private sector , Faith Based Organizations and Civil Society.

Proactive efforts to raise awareness among the general public and public campaigns to address deep rooted societal attitudes are of paramount importance. It is very difficult to isolate exact root causes of domestic violence but some of the interventions suggested here, about steps which could be taken in the educational system; of reducing sexual stereotyping, increasing non sexist teaching material, could go a long way and interested me greatly as an Educator myself.

Lately, the media has been rife with stories of young and old women alike being abused at home. There has also been the case of a man who suffered abuse at the hands of his wife, with a rolling pin; this made the headlines two days ago. His wife was asked to pay a 15,000 GYD fine. The case of a stepfather slapping his step-daughter also incurred a sentence. Despite persons who commented in the media about the ‘Americanization’ of the punishment meted out to the step-father, who according to the person, was having well meaning intentions to chastise her for her ‘promiscuity’, it is evident that a change in mindset will be a long time coming, that people may understand that violence has little to do with culture and nationality. Reminds me of the time I heard last about a strict father who chastised his daughter for her frowned upon romantic relationship, by placing a hot iron on her back. A slap can just as easily morph into something more sinister.

Kudos to the Ministry for opening up this discussion !

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