CENTRAL and East Trinidad are leading the country in incidents of domestic violence, while a proliferation of firearms in society has led to an increase in guns as the weapon of choice or availability in these situations.

These statistics were presented yesterday by Dr Godfrey St Bernard, acting director at the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Studies (SALISES) of The University of the West Indies, St Augustine.

St Bernard was speaking at the institute’s virtual forum, themed “Counteracting the Scourge of Violence Against Women in Caribbean Societies—Towards Remedial Action in Response to Theory and Evidence-Informed Studies”.

While not all incidents in which women were injured or killed occurred under domestic violence circumstances, St Bernard said there has been an increase in gun violence against women—and this could be linked to the increased circulation of firearms in the public.

He noted statistics showing that from 2010 to 2014, “gunshot” ­accounted for 15.7 per cent of female homicides; but from 2015 to 2019, this has increased to 25.3 per cent.

From 2000 to 2019, gun violence accounted for 19.1 per cent of female homicides, St Bernard stated in his presentation, “Femicide in Trinidad and ­Tobago: Trends and Patterns during the First 20 years of the New Millennium”.

Meanwhile, stabbings had decreased over that period, going from 50 per cent of female homicides for 2000 to 2004, to 21.3 per cent from 2015 to 2019—to represent 29.1 per cent of female killings from 2000 to 2019.

From 2000 to 2019, “choppings” represented 16.8 per cent of female homicides, St Bernard said.

He went to suggest that tempering the “proliferation” of guns in society would impact increasing gun violence against women—but also raised a concern that enough wasn’t being done to determine why people and young people may want to own a firearm.

Stating that “children do not remain children”, he asked: “What are we doing to discourage children from having an orientation towards having a gun?”

St Bernard said thought must be put into the reasons people want to own or access a firearm and “what are we doing to counteract that?”

He suggested “reducing the supply and demand for guns in the general market”, as the weapon was becoming “a major player” in domestic violence.

Eastern concern 

While Central and South Trinidad continue to present the highest figures in domestic vio­lence deaths and incidents among women, St Bernard said statistics coming of Eastern areas like Sangre Grande were more worrying, as these communities were less populated.

However, Central and South have been “flagged” as areas of high domestic violence, with Couva, Freeport and Princes Town standing out. Central presented with 19.1 per cent of the country’s ­domestic violence cases, South at 16.3 per cent, both having increased and East Trinidad was at 13 per cent.

From 2000 to 2019, T&T saw 790 female homicides or 10.4 per cent of total homicides for that period, with adult females making up 696 or 9.2 per cent of those deaths.

Adult female cases due to domestic violence for that period numbered 230 people, or three per cent of all cases.

Adult fatalities as a result of domestic violence for 2000 to 2019 accounted for 382 cases—with males at 152 (40 per cent) and females at 230 or 60 per cent.

Women of “East Indian” descent also formed 43.9 per cent of domestic violence victims from 2000 to 2019; and women of African descent, 41.70 per cent.

St Bernard went on to state that work must be done to determine “what is responsible for all this”, later asserting that enough “monitoring and evaluation” isn’t being done.

He said a scientific approach to what was causing these issues had to be embraced, and the problem should not be approached on the basis of “gut feelings”.

St Bernard further stated that in many cases, “aggression management is something we need to be concerned about”.

Noting again that firearms are increasingly a means of “settling scores”, he said a lot of work should be done in communities where guns are prevalent.

Young men, especially, have to be reached and be given the tools to make different choices, St Bernard said.

He added that people and organisations working against domestic violence must also do so in unity and not “in silos”.

The forum

According to The UWI, yesterday’s forum aimed to “reflect upon ethical pre-requirements and prescription as they relate to research on violence against women and to showcase recent evidence-based studies that permit assessments of situations and change in the context of myriad issues akin to violence against women and girls in Caribbean jurisdictions”.

It further looked to “provide an open forum for reflecting, contesting and reforming agendas and action geared towards violence prevention and safety promotion among women and girls at risk of intra-familial and community violence”.

Also speaking were Dr Ruth Rodney, assistant professor, School of Nursing at the Faculty of Health, York University; Angela Bourassa, research associate, Global Women’s Institute, George Washington University; Carol Watson Williams, principal consultant at reThink Social Development Ltd; Dr Halimah DeShong, senior lecturer, Institute for Gender and Development Studies at The UWI, Cave Hill; Dr Henriette Jansen, retired technical adviser, Violence against Women (VAW), Research and Data for UNFPA Asia and the Pacific Regional Office (APRO), Bangkok; and Claire Guy Allen, Woman Superintendent of Police (ag) in charge of the Gender-Based Violence Unit in the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service.

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