Greetings by the Minister Olivia Grange, at the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women Church Service

We have been taught that in all things, we must give thanks. And so today we come to give thanks and seek divine guidance around tackling what continues to be a major evil in our world today.

Even as I speak, a woman, a girl, a family, a community, somewhere, are experiencing the horrific effects and consequences of gender-based violence.

Violence is still a major factor of life for too many women in our world. UNWomen estimates that 35 per cent of women have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence. 35 percent! That means 1 in 3.

If that is true — and I believe it is — then women and girls in this congregation have come face-to-face with this evil.

The magnitude of on-going violence against women and children in our country is cause for alarm. The police statistics for the year 2014 show that there were 2,1992
reported cases of sexual violence against women and girls.

But we know from experience that many many other acts of violence went unreported — in large part due to attitudes towards the brave women who report acts of violence against them.

Instead of empowering women who’ve suffered this great injustice to speak out, stand up to and confront their attackers, too many members of our society try to shame women into believing it’s their fault and their problem.

I have news for you: it is not only the women and girls who are physically harmed who suffer the consequences of gender-based violence. It is time we understand that the violence not only has long-lasting consequences for women but also their families, the community and the country at large.

It is not a private family matter. It is not “man and woman affair”.

When it comes to gender-based violence we cannot continue to say “cock roach nu bizniz inna fowl fight”. In this matter, we’re all fowls.
We’re all vulnerable; and we each have a responsibility to end the violence.

The scriptures command us how to act towards each other. The contemporary english translation of 1 Timothy chapter 5 verses 1 and 2 puts it this way:

“1. Don’t correct an older man. Encourage him, as you would your own father. Treat younger men as you would your own brother, 2. and treat older women as you would your own mother. Show the same respect to younger women that you would to your sister.”

It is attitudes and outdated beliefs that fuel gender-based violence. If we treat each other how we want to be treated ourselves, then we will effectively tackle this problem.

We want the church to help us to tackle these attitudes.

“Are you your brother’s keeper?” “Will you be your sister’s keeper?”

At the same time, we must put in measures at the governmental level to deal with the problem.

As government we have enacted several pieces of legislation to prevent violence against our women and girls. These include:
– the Sexual Offences Act,
– Offences Against the Person Act,
– Trafficking in Persons Prevention, Suppression and Punishment Act,
– Child Pornography (Prevention) Act,
– Child Care and Protection Act
– and the Cybercrimes Act.

We have drafted and costed the National Strategic Plan to Eliminate Gender-based violence. And we will begin implementation in the new year.

We are serious about tackling the issue of violence against women and girls. It is high on our agenda.

We need your support to ensure that we succeed; to ensure that every woman and girl are guaranteed their rights as human beings, which includes protection from violence.
Let us be our brothers and our sisters keepers.

I thank our host pastor for accommodating us this morning. We’re happy to be worshipping with you all.

We encourage you to use the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25 and the 16 days of activism which follow to make a stand against violence and the protection of our women and children.

Thank you and God bless you.

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