Women and Girls have a right to live a life free from Violence & Discrimination

ST. JOHN’S – 18 May – The Directorate of Gender Affairs is extremely disheartened to hear of the alleged involvement of two officers of the law in a recent case of sexual assault. Such allegations not only damage the credibility of the Royal Police Force of Antigua & Barbuda but also betray the trust that communities and individuals place in state authorities.

Sexual violence is a scourge on our community and an exceedingly violent and despicable act primarily affecting our women and girls. Statistics from the World Health Organisation state that approximately one in three women will experience some form of sexual or physical violence in her lifetime. However, the vast majority of these assaults go unreported.

Victims of sexual violence live in fear and pain; they also struggle with issues of shame, and the potential for further discrimination after reporting the crime. Despite the best efforts of the Directorate, the Royal Police Force, and other agencies allegations such as these discourage victims of sexual assault and other forms of trauma and gender-based violence from reporting these crimes and seeking the necessary services. They also have the potential to retard any progress that was made nationally on addressing this issue.

As signatories to the Beijing Platform for Action, Convention of Belem do Para, and the Convention on all forms of Violence and Discrimination against Women and Girls we have a duty as state actors to ensure that our women and girls live free from violence and discrimination. Moreover, these agreements charge us with the responsibility to provide victims with access to justice, care, and services. Nationally, our legislation clearly articulates the role of the police in addressing gender-based violence and calls for greater protection and care for victims.

The matter before us must be subjected to a thorough and impartial investigation. Over the years, the Ministry of Social Transformation through its Directorate of Gender Affairs has provided training and capacity building support to the Royal Police Force of Antigua and Barbuda and will continue its efforts to ensure that officers understand the root causes of gender-based violence and the importance of victim- centred approaches.

The Directorate wishes to encourage the Royal Police Force to continue to promote justice by putting an end to impunity and by ensuring that systems are in place to prevent, monitor, and deal swiftly with any individual who exploits trust.

The Directorate of Gender Affairs remains resolute in its commitment to offering quality care and services to those affected by gender-based and sexual violence.

If you or someone you know is experiencing or has experienced any form of violence, or is fearful that violence may occur, there is help available. The Directorate of Gender Affairs Crisis Hotline is a 24-hour confidential service offering first response to domestic violence, rape or other forms of violence that may require crisis counselling. The hotline number is 463.5555.

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