Women of Barbados decided today that they would no longer be silent about acts of violence being committed against them.
Scores of women and men answered the call of the charity Life in Leggings Caribbean Alliance against gender-based violence, to march through the streets of The City to demand an end to harassment and all forms of violence.
With chants of ‘Don’t ‘psst’ at me!’, ‘Love and licks don’t mix’, and ‘my body, my rules’, they marched from through the streets of Bridgetown before returning to Queen’s Park for messages of solidarity from gender rights advocates.
Felicia Browne, of the non-profit organization Caribbean Mentorship Programme, told the gathering that society needs to show more support for victims of sexual violence.
“We have two goals to achieve today, and one of that is to ensure that we stop victim-blaming; that we allow victims … to have the space to speak on their experiences; that we allow victims to speak on the issues that affect them whether it’s in the schools, the church, and even their households, particularly their households, as well as their workplace.
“We must allow our victims to have an understanding of what it is to have autonomy of self and personhood. Too often women believe that when they’re violated it is their fault. Let us remind them that is not their fault,” Browne said.
She also appealed to those present to take their concerns to their political leaders, as they are responsible for passing legislation to ensure the protection of women and children, as well as rehabilitation services for perpetrators.
“We need rehabilitation for them because statistics show that many of our perpetrators are repeat offenders.
“This is something that is very serious in our society. We must as individuals, we must as citizens take charge. Provide the support, provide the space and listen to our victims, listen to our survivors and ensure that we are there for them without discriminating against them,” Browne said.
For founder of the Barbados Gays, Lesbians and All-Sexuals against Discrimination (BGLAD) Donnya Piggott, violence against women was a matter of disrespect.
“And we’ve seen the videos, and we know what it’s like at Crop Over time and Carnival time and Kadooment time when the word ‘no’ and the word ‘stop’ means something different to certain people. And if that is not enough, the women and girls who have been harassed, abused or raped, our society still asks ‘What was she wearing’?
“So whether you’re a Muslim woman in a burka or a reveller in a two-piece swimsuit jamming down Kadooment Day, you deserve respect.”
Piggott also made a case for the female members of the homosexual and transgender community, telling the crowd “don’t ever think that there’s only one way to be a woman”, and that they too, must be respected.
“Our Barbadian society has laughed and ridiculed … masculine expressive women. We have attempted to embarrass, demoralize and kill transgender women in Barbados, causing many to seek refuge elsewhere. So if you’re a masculine expressive woman like me, or a trans-woman like our very own Dee Dee Winston, you deserve respect,” she said.
Founder of the Life in Leggings movement, Ronelle King, described the turnout as “an empowering moment” and said there are plans to continue the campaign.
“I march not only for myself but for my daughter. I march for the women who can’t march for themselves; women who are not here to march for themselves; the women we remember while we were marching. I march for the women who are now breaking their silences; the women who are afraid; the women who have been slut-shamed; the women who have been victim-blamed. I march for them,” King told the crowd.
Similar marches were held this afternoon in six other Caribbean countries, namely Antigua & Barbuda, the Bahamas, Dominica, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. (MCW)