By KHRISNA VIRGIL
Tribune Staff Reporter
MIGRANT women who enter The Bahamas are named as one of the most vulnerable groups to gender-based violence, some reporting being locked in homes and subjected to intimidation by the fear of extreme violence.
According to the National Task Force for Gender Based Violence’s Strategic Plan to combat the “endemic problem”, when a group of 16 women of Haitian descent were interviewed, 70 per cent agreed “hitting a woman every now and then is not considered abuse.”
Even more of them admitted that they experienced some level of violence in their personal relationships at the hands of their partner.
These women felt that reporting their perpetrators and seeking justice was not worth the risk of possible deportation, the report found.
“While all of the women agreed that men who hit women are wrong, 94 per cent of the women interviewed claimed that violence against women in the Haitian community was not a concern to them,” the report said.
“When asked to define gender-based violence, 70 per cent of the respondents agreed that ‘hitting a woman every now and then is not considered abuse’ and yet an astounding 94 per cent admitted that they have experienced some level of violence in their personal relationships at the hands of their partner.
“When asked if victims of gender-based violence should go for advice and assistance, the unanimous answer was that they should seek assistance from their pastors and explained that pastors would be able to pray over the distressed person’s situation and if needed intervene to resolve the couple’s dispute.
“When asked whom victims of gender-based violence should never go to for assistance, 50 per cent of the respondents said that a Haitian woman who was a victim of gender-based violence should never go to the police for assistance.”
The task force said while it is aware that this study is preliminary, there is an indication that there is a need to further explore the issue of gender-based violence within this immigrant community, not only in New Providence but in several of the Family Islands.
The report further noted that the potential for abuse of women in state-based facilities, such as the Detention Centre, cannot be disregarded. It links gender based violence (GBV) to the increasing violent crime levels in the country.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has said the government will dedicate the necessary resources to help the Crisis Centre in its implementation of the report’s recommendations.
Mr Christie added that the government will also support the creation of a foundation to involve the Bahamian people in understanding that it goes beyond government resources.
Among other ideas, the report recommends that a GBV Authority be established as the statutory body to ensure that the strategic plan is implemented. The authority will be charged with oversight of all GBV initiatives.