“Why is violence against women so prevalent in the Indo-Trini community?”
This was one of the questions I received after posting about the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
If I’m being really honest it’s a question I’ve often wondered about myself because gender-based violence has been a part of my life since childhood.
Every generation of women in my family has been impacted by violence. And while Indo-Trinidadian spirituality celebrates and elevates women, the alarming rates of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) within the community cannot be ignored.
In the post below, three factors which contribute to GBV within the Indo-Trinidadian community are outlined. As with many other social issues, GBV intersects with other socio-economic issues. My own experience has taught me that poverty and alcohol addiction are other factors which contribute to violence against women. But the three points discussed are highlighted because they transcend class concerns.
1. History of Indentureship
During the initial period of indentureship the ratio of workers was 3 women to 100 men. That rate gradually went up to 4 women to 10 men but this continued gender imbalance (for various reasons) led to alarming rates of GBV.
Indentureship also normalized oppression. Being passive became a survival mechanism in a seemingly hopeless situation because resistance often led to further violence/oppression.
2. Cultural Attitudes of Silence
There is a pervasive belief that conflict, including abuse, is “a husband and wife issue” which results in family and community members ignoring abuse or encouraging silence.
The shame surrounding divorce also contributes to this culture of silence. Divorced women become isolated from their communities while their husbands garner sympathy. The fear of losing the respect and support of their family and community contributes to this tradition of silence.
3. Patriarchal Social Structure
The abuse that many women endure is the result of the norms of male privilege that minimizes and justifies GBV. In many instances violence is viewed as a means to discipline an “unruly” wife/daughter/sister.
1. Define GBV as a wider social problem, not as an internal family problem.
In order to reject the culture of silence, all community members should be aware of the long and short term consequences of GBV on the society.
2. Invest in resources so that survivors have social and financial support.
Fear of isolation and financial dependency are two major reasons why women feel trapped in abusive relationships. Programs and resources created to alleviate these concerns will go a long way to ending GBV.
3. Community outreach to inform women of their options.
Programs and resources are not worth much if those who are in need remain unaware of them. Effective media campaigns and community outreach endeavours are essential components of ending GBV.
4. Educate men.
The current patterns of denial, minimizations and justifications for gender based violence can only be changed when men understand the long term impact of such violence. In addition to other forms of justice, abusers should be required to confront and change their role as perpetrators.