By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE Medical Association of The Bahamas says the prevalence of gender-based violence in the country is a public health concern that must come to an end.
In a press statement, the association said the COVID-19 pandemic has created hesitancy in seeking medical care, decreasing the opportunity for doctors to spot and report abuse to the relevant agencies.
MAB also contended that gender-based violence (GBV) is an ongoing silent crisis for The Bahamas, which likely saw the same kinds of increases in various forms of abuse as was the case in many other countries.
According to statistics provided by the MAB, GBV affects one in three women — 35 percent — at some point in their lifetimes internationally. Additionally, 30 percent of women in a relationship will at some point have experienced some sort of verbal, physical, emotional and/or mental abuse solely based on their gender. Also, 38 percent of murders of women globally are committed by an intimate partner.
“In The Bahamas we can extrapolate from the international statistics that we experience similar numbers,” according to the statement. “However, sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a hesitancy among the general population to access healthcare facilities. Many facilities are used cautiously as persons fear contracting the deadly virus. This decreases the opportunity for physicians to observe, diagnose and report to the appropriate agencies to ensure these persons receive the medical, social, and psychological assistance they so greatly need.
“As such the COVID-19 pandemic paired with an increase in incidents of gender-based violence places our health care system on a ‘tightrope’ as the system battles the direct and indirect health care outcomes related to COVID-19 pandemic. Gender based violence has several short-term health outcomes which include injuries, self-harm, homicide, suicide, unwanted pregnancies, miscarriage, still-birth, pre-term delivery.
“However, the long-term health implications not only affect the individual physically and mentally, but also impact the foundation upon which our country rests – the young generations. The research indicates that there has been an exponential rise in depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal tendencies in women who have experienced gender-based violence. Evidently gender-based violence places the need for healthcare professionals in high demand as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It continued: “The Bahamas Medical Association contends that gender based violence is a public health concern which demands an immediate ‘vaccination policy’. The serious short- and long-term consequences on a victim’s physical, sexual and mental health as well as on their personal and social well-being requires a national effort to circumvent the devastating impact on national development.
To bring triage, the Medical Association encourages the community to seek medical services when needed. Health services, when accessed in time, can provide critical, time sensitive interventions for sexual assault/rape, such as emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy (within 120 hours) and Post–Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) medication to prevent HIV infection (within 72 hours of possible exposure), as well as presumptive treatment of STIs. Health services can also provide psychological first aid for the survivor and referral to additional services. Even when accessed after 120 hours, health services can provide important care and referral services to survivors.”
MAB said health care professionals remain committed to creating a healthier nation.
As such during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Medical Association of The Bahamas speaks on behalf of all physicians throughout the Commonwealth of the Bahamas.
“We join our voices to encourage everyone throughout the 700 islands and cays that make up our beautiful country to take a stand, ‘If you see something, say something’ to end GBV throughout our country. We remain steadfast in our commitment to creating a healthy Bahamas, and in our commitment to creating a violent free Bahamas.”
The statement came days after a young mother was shot dead by her fiancé, who police said then turned the gun on himself. Days prior to the murder, the suspect had terrorised the victim and last year shot at her sister and another woman. He was on bail for that prior offence when last week’s murder took place.