The social costs of harassment and violence

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(Statement by the Acting Executive Director, Directorate of Gender Affairs)
This week’s act of violence against a young man in the heart of St John’s was an unconscionable and inexcusable act. The Ministry of Social Transformation and Human Resource Development, through the Directorate of Gender Affairs, firmly believes that violence perpetrated against others is an egregious human rights violation that not only impacts those directly involved but all of our nation’s citizens.
It is our civic duty as Antiguans and Barbudans to make concerted efforts to transform public spaces into safe areas around which people may traverse without fear of harassment or violence. Street harassment, which primarily involves unwanted, inappropriate and oftentimes repeated commentary and advances, is a negative social phenomenon that requires our undivided attention and scrutiny.
As a society we have become desensitised to the harmful impact of street harassment. The failure to recognize street harassment as an ongoing cultural issue facilitates its escalation into acts of violence. We can begin to demonstrate the seriousness with which we consider these events by changing the way they are framed in our language. Our language must reflect the sensitivity and seriousness inherent in acts of harassment and violence. This will communicate our commitment to humanising the parties involved and give rise to responses and actions from the wider society that are measured and conscientious.
There is no justification or excuse for the violent act that was committed in a public space and it is our responsibility to learn how to effectively respond and react to harassment. Violence is an unacceptable means of resolving conflict. Furthermore, we should acknowledge that harassment of any kind has no place in a civilized society.
Those consistently subjected to unwanted advances in public spaces often feel discomfort, fear and frustration. Let us resolve to educate each other on more appropriate ways to address and engage our brothers and sisters. Let us also make a commitment as concerned and empathetic citizens to transform Antigua & Barbuda into a nation that takes all forms of harassment and violence seriously so that those affected may feel confident that intervention will be guaranteed and swift.
The Directorate of Gender Affairs remains committed to advocating for and implementing legislative frameworks and providing quality education and services to the public.
The services of the Directorate of Gender Affairs are available to all members of the public through its 24/7 crisis hotline at 463 5555.

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