Gender Affairs department responds to concerns surrounding gender-based violence  

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Acting Director of the Directorate of Gender Affairs Jamie Saunders (Photo contributed)
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By Theresa Goodwin

[email protected]

The Directorate of Gender Affairs has responded to Antigua and Barbuda’s assessment in the latest Universal Periodic Review (UPR) that was released late last week by the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Acting Director of the department, Jamie Saunders, said the department continues to be proactive in relation to raising awareness on gender-based violence in all its different forms, through the operation of the Support and Referral One Stop Centre (RPFAB) for survivors, as well as through the 24-hour hotline that provides access to support and help for persons experiencing gender-based violence.

He said the RPFAB Special Victims Support Unit is also strategically located within the Gender Affairs headquarters and deals specifically with gender-based violence crimes.

The remark from Saunders was in response to what the government agency viewed as the perceived underreporting of gender-based violence in Antigua and Barbuda, based on the recommendations coming out of the report.

Akseli Lamminmaki, a representative from UN Women, shared concerns about the reporting of gender-based violence during his brief statement last Thursday.

He also made recommendations for actions on climate change, specifically toward supporting vulnerable groups.

“While noting the progress made, UN Women is concerned that gender-based violence, including domestic violence, remains underreported. UN Women recommends that the government further advance efforts to address gender-based violence, improve judicial proceedings, ensure women’s access to justice, and establish a best-fit shelter model for women survivors,” Lamminmaki said.

Saunders noted in a press release that the directorate has also been engaging men and boys on the issue of gender-based violence through the hosting of panel discussions, training sessions, and presentations to community groups, in an effort to preemptively identify and address harmful behaviors that could lead to gender-based violence.

 “Additionally, plans are also in place to have a week of activities focused on healthy relationships, which will address gender-based violence that women and men face, and seek to come up with feasible solutions that the directorate can undertake to increase reporting and reduce the frequency in which violence occurs within relationships,” he added.

The acting director also disclosed that the Gender Affairs department is currently engaged with a number of corporate partners and international development partners to receive support in establishing a national shelter for survivors of gender-based violence, and in the interim, provide emergency short-term accommodation for persons who are facing abuse or violence.

 Outside of the concerns surrounding gender-based violence, the twin-island state was applauded for efforts made to improve the lives of children living with disabilities, to improve the rights of women and children, and to protect the environment, amid the ever-escalating threats of climate changes.

The commendation came from Hassan Hussain Shiban, a representative from the Maldives.

“My delegation applauds Antigua and Barbuda for accepting most of the recommendations it received during the 39th session of the working group in November of last year. This includes those made by the Maldives to integrate children with disabilities into regular schools and enhance women’s awareness of their rights,” Shiban said.

      Saunders said the directorate will continue its efforts to systematically address gender-based violence in Antigua and Barbuda, and encourages anyone facing this form of violence to call the national hotline at 463-5555 or to access services at the Support and Referral Centre located on Nevis Street and Friendly Alley.

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