The History of Gender-Based Violence in the Caribbean

Heterosexual Couple symbol on white background


The following are excerpts from a teach-in titled ‘Gender-Based Violence in the Caribbean: Historical Roots’, given by Dr Verene A. Shepherd, professor of social history and university director at the Institute for Gender Development Studies (IGDS), University of the West Indies (UWI), and member of the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, held at the Mary Seacole Hall on February 8, 2017. Persons researching gender-based violence in the Caribbean should find the information useful.

“…gender-based violence has a long genealogy in the region.

We are all aware of the immediacy of the issue. We have all heard the comments and the statistics, not just for /about Jamaica, but for/about the Caribbean and even at the level of the United Nations. In her recent lecture in the Cayman Islands as part of the IGDS’ regional lecture series, Dr Dalea Bean reminded us that in 2015, United Nations’ Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon shocked the Caribbean when he stated: ” The Caribbean has among the highest rates of sexual assault in the world.” He went on to name three territories as being in the top 10: Bermuda with 67.3 rape incidents per 100,000 citizens, Suriname (45.2: 100,000) and Grenada (30.6:100,000) as the numbers 5, 7 and 10 respectively.”

In an article in the Jamaica Observer of Tuesday October 1, 2012,  Dr Betty Ann Blaine of “Hear the Children Cry” wrote this:

“the fastest-growing crimes in Jamaica at the moment are rape and incest. Statistics show that the cases of sexual abuse have increased exponentially since 2007, moving from 121 cases in that year to 2,671 reported cases in 2011. And experts agree that the figure is actually much higher since there is an estimated high percentage of under-reporting.

Not only are rape and incest increasing, but the ages of the victims keep getting lower and lower. Earlier this year, Dr Sandra Knight of the Bustamante Hospital for Children shared some of the horrifying stories with the nation of cases presented to her at that institution. Some of the cases involved babies as young as 18 months old who had been sexually assaulted and otherwise physically abused.”