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Virgin Islands Rally Against Domestic Violence
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, Virgin Islands – A massive crowd went through the streets of Road Town with loud singing, chanting and drumming to send an emphatic message that violence against women or any person must stop.
This was an initiative and stand promoted by the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Women’s Ministry Departments across the Territory and is being promoted through a weekend of activity with the themes; Building Faith through Prayers, a journey of faith – featuring women of faith and the road march using the theme ‘End it Now’.
The SDA community leading the cause for an end to violence against women and girls at a march and rally through the streets of Road Town on Saturday March 2, 2013. Photo: VINO
Onlookers join in the chant and march with rally
There was no doubt that the march against violence was one that was well supported and promoted as people who lined the streets along the route joined in the chants and singing while others abandoned their activities for the afternoon and followed the parade to the Road Town band stand.
The rally saw a very large turnout of supporters. Photo: VINO
The Minister of Communications supported the rally
In their messages, the Adventist groups called on neighbours to stop fighting each other, that there will be an end to gun violence and that there will be a Virgin Islands and the world at large that is living in peace. These messages pulled the support of the Minister for Communications and Works and Fourth District Representative Hon. Mark H. Vanterpool, who gave remarks following the march.
“I am very pleased to be able to lend my voice, if it’s just to lend my voice. It may not mean what I say but the fact that we’re here as elected officials that we are also in the fight to end it now, ending violence against women and girls,” said Hon. Vanterpool to the large gathering as he commended the level of support not only by women and girls but the many boys and men who were present.
He said that as the legislative body, the Government of the Territory has its role to play. “We are to let those policies that are enshrined to fight against women, we must insure that we move swiftly to put legislations in place that helps to strengthen that fight, the fight to end it now, and that is our responsibility and we take that responsibility very seriously,” said Hon. Vanterpool.
The Minister spoke of the Minister of Health’s earnest effort to put the necessary frameworks in place to ensure that the cause is well catered for and represented at the level of government. “When we speak of violence we are not only directing to women and girls but it affects all of our families. So when we put that fight up and it's victorious we know that it’s a victory for the Virgin Islands, including men and boys.”
Minister for Communications and Works and Fourth District representative Hon. Mark H. Vanterpool addressing the rally. Seated are (from left to right) Director of Gender Affairs Ms Lorralie Connor, Social Development Department representative Ms Chonda Jeffers, Family Support Network (FSN) President Ms Judith Charles, NCC of SDA Director of Children and Women's Ministry Ms Gerene Joseph. Photo: VINO
Women are subjected to violence irrespective of social and economic status
In making the declaration of purpose, North Caribbean Conference (NCC) of SDA Director of Children and Women's Ministry, Gerene Joseph noted that women are subjected to violence irrespective of the economic status; rural or urban, faith or geographic locations. The United Nations, she said, estimates that at least one in three women experience physical or sexual violence in her lifetime. “Now that’s a serious statistic because it means that some of us standing right here have been or will be abused in our lifetime.”
Violence against women have reached pandemic proportions
It was also stated that among women ages 15 to 44 years old, acts of violence cause more deaths and disability than cancer, malaria and traffic accidents. “We as a church have realized that violence against women and girls has reached pandemic proportions. Also, we as a church are taking a bold stand against violence against women and girls,” said Ms Joseph.
The Women’s Ministries Department of the General Conference at the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), have combined efforts to wage the campaign. This has seen the NCC make a forward step of getting on board with the Adventist body. “As a matter of fact we have had campaigns such as this one in Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla and St. Marteen,” Ms Joseph stated.
Carrot Bay SDA church Social Events Coordinator Ms. Gloria Fahie being pinned by WM Director Ms. Brendalee John. Photo: VINO
Rape and sex with girls under 13 years are enshrined
"But there are other things that are involved when it comes to violence against women and girls,” stated Director of Gender Affairs Ms Lorralie Connor. She noted that rape and sex with girls under the age of 13 years are all enshrined. “These crimes are known as gender based violence. The perpetrator has committed the crime against a woman that is why it is classified as gender based violence. And I think it is important for you to understand that when you are taking your stand because there are so many different forms that might go unnoticed,” she added while noting that some of these forms of violence are tabooed in Virgin Islands society.
This, Ms Conner said, is mostly in the areas of sexual assaults against girls, one which persons do not like to talk about, “but it happens,” she said. “This church, the British Virgin Islands, I should say this Territory, have taken a tremendous stand and in order for us to see results when it comes to ending violence. If you want it to end now, you have started the machinery to end it now,” said Ms Connor.
A number of men turned out to lend their support to the cause. Photo: VINO
The Government can't make a change alone, it takes a JOINT effort of all parties
She emphasized that Government could not do it alone neither could it be done as a single group but would take a joint effort of all parties in the cause. It was highlighted that if a stand is not taken in unity and in haste, the problem would fester and get worse, which can lead to implications that one would not want to think about. “What I have learnt at being at this Office of Gender Affairs is that peace in the home is peace in the community. We are not seeing peace in our community and that’s because there is no peace in our homes. And I am so glad that we are taking a stand today to sustain the stability of our society and our community at large.”
According to Ms Connor, she is pleased that Government is looking at policies and that they are committed to it being done, even though it is another spending on Government's part. “So it’s for them now to give us the ok to do the implementation, which is five years.” She noted that it is not a situation where the change would be seen instantly but the efforts must continue.
A drama piece being done by the Purcell Group Against Violence Against Women and Girls. Photo: VINO