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Enlisting all of society in the elimination of gender-based violence in Trinidad and Tobago


A group of women and men put their arms together to show solidarity towards their commitment to end gender-based violence in Trinidad and Tobago.
Photo: UN Women Caribbean

In Trinidad and Tobago, family violence and abuse in the home was once thought of as a domestic matter between spouses - a taboo topic that was spoken about in whispers and widely misunderstood. 

“As a society, we discuss family violence more openly,” says Marina Walter, UN Resident Coordinator for the country. “There is, though, still a lot of work to be done to get the issue of gender-based violence the national attention it deserves. The more family violence is spoken about, the more awareness will be built, triggering prompt action to prevent harm to women and girls.”

Statistics show that much remains to be done to eliminate violence against women and girls. Between 2011 and 2016, 4,956 reports of violence in the home were made to Trinidad and Tobago police. Ninety-six per cent of those involved women and girls. 

Across Trinidad and Tobago, one in three women and girls in unions have suffered abuse— and 29 per cent of those have experienced both physical and sexual assault. 

The UN-European Union supported Spotlight Initiative is a multi-sectoral approach engaging civil society, the government of Trinidad and Tobago, state institutions and communities to eradicate all forms of family violence against women and girls in the country. 

The COVID-19 connection

As was the case in many countries, the global COVID-19 pandemic resulted in an alarming spike in reports of family violence during lockdown measures. In the midst of stay-at-home restrictions, there was a 140 per cent increase in reported cases of abuse involving women and girls as compared with the same period the previous year. 

It’s an alarming trend that caught the attention of local law enforcement official and the media. Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith revealed that the police received reports of 558 cases of assault over the course of the three-month lockdown, compared with 232 for the same period in 2019.

“For many women and girls already living in abusive circumstances, being forced to stay at home and the added pressure the pandemic created, only worsened their exposure to violence at home,” said Ms. Walter.

Acutely aware of the spike in family violence, Spotlight Initiative responded by boosting support services for survivors through local NGOs.

The Spotlight Initiative is a global, multi-year partnership between the European Union and the United Nations to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls by 2030. Article written by Paolo Kernahan. This is an excerpt from the original published article found on the Spotlight Initiative website. To learn more about the Spotlight Initiative's work, visit: https://www.spotlightinitiative.org.

Goals we are supporting through this initiative