Minister of Labour Esther Byer-Suckoo is suggesting that domestic violence remains a real threat to the fight for equality of women in Barbados.
As the country joined in the worldwide observance of International Women’s Day yesterday, the minister said she is far from satisfied with the situation in the island.
She noted that lawmen are often called to deal with matters involving physical abuse but are turned away on arrival at the houses in question.
In addition, Byer-Suckoo said some residents who turn a blind eye to women with obvious marks of physical abuse and merely say that they have “walked into a door again”, are just as culpable.
“..The doctor may call the police because clearly there is physical abuse in the situation. The police are called but by the time they get there [they’re told] there’s nothing going on here, everything is fine, my spouse and I are happy. They may be called more than once,” she said, noting that in some instances the final call is to the coroner.
The minister said these situations underline the need for a Domestic Violence Court, which is already being considered by the Freundel Stuart administration.
She explained, “Once the police are called to the situation, that matter has to be seen through including going to this Domestic Violence Court. I think once we start to give it that priority and treat it as serious as it is then we would really start to break the back of this. We’re seeing too many incidents of domestic violence and we’re seeing far too many deaths.”
The minister said her ministry is also focused on stamping out sexual harassment in the workplace, and unfair dismissal of women because of pregnancy or if they’re called away on an emergency to deal with a person with a disability in cases where they are the primary caregiver.
However, in spite of those challenges, the official said equal opportunity exists in areas such as health and education for women across Barbados.
“We have equal opportunities at university, secondary schools and even in the technical and vocational education and training. We have women who are learning carpentry and auto mechanics and electrical work…,” she said.
“We have seen time and time again that by investing in our women we have seen our economy grow and we’ve seen our society prosper.”