European Union External Action

Speech - Public Dialogue on Domestic Violence Prevention

Port of Spain, 24/06/2019 - 22:44, UNIQUE ID: 190624_20
Speeches of the Ambassador

Speech of Ambassador Biesebroek

Public Dialogue on Domestic Violence Prevention

Old Fire Station, Hart St POS

June 24th, 2019


  • Do you know that 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime?
  • 1 in 3!
  • The picture in the EU mirrors the global picture and available data suggests that the situation in Trinidad and Tobago is not better than the world average. 30% of women are said to have experienced violence at the hand of their partners.
  • Look around you. This means statistically every third woman in this room has been or is a victim of such violence. That is mind-boggling.
  • A recent prevalence survey in Trinidad and Tobago revealed that over 7% of ever pregnant women reported physical violence in at least one pregnancy. Half of them had been punched or kicked in the abdomen, during the pregnancy.
  • In the current 15 to 64 years age bracket, over 100,000 women in Trinidad and Tobago are estimated to have experienced one act or more of physical and/or sexual violence perpetrated by their male partners; of these women, approximately 11,000 women are likely to still be in an abusive relationship.
  • These statistics do not include the other forms of abusive behaviour that women are exposed to including emotional (also known as psychological) and economic abuse, the former being the most common form of intimate partner violence.
  • And these are just the statistics that affect women. Children are also subjected to sexual abuse. 19% of women in Trinidad and Tobago reported that they had experienced sexual abuse before the age of 18.
  • Often physical and sexual violence is complemented by economic violence: A partner may refuse to give money for household expenses or a women may be denied the opportunity to get a job, or earnings or savings are taken away.
  • What is more, studies[1] on GBV in Trinidad and Tobago also reflect that children who witness domestic violence have a higher probability being involved in violent relationships themselves.
  • Looking at these sobering numbers, it is no wonder that violence against women and girls is considered one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in the world today.

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • This situation is simply not acceptable. Collectively we have a responsibility to try and address the underlying causes.
  • How can we address the historical roots of family violence in the region that has led to a social norms framework that condones and supports the use of violence as a mechanism to maintain power structures based on race and gender?  How can we promote behaviour change and eliminate harmful gender norms and stereotypes?
  • Do we sufficiently understand the problems, do we have enough data available to define adequate policies?
  • Is the legal framework to ensure gender equality sufficiently robust and do the authorities have sufficient capacity to act against impunity?
  • Do victims have sufficient options to escape an abusive relationship? Can they find refuge and psychological and social support?
  • These are some of the questions that we need to ask and find answers to in the quest to eliminate domestic violence. I am convinced that the panellists today will discuss these and other questions.

Ladies and gentlemen,

  • On the part of the European Union we will continue to contribute to the debate and give a platform for discussions, as we have done over the three years that I have been in Trinidad and Tobago.
  • We are financing projects such as the Sexual Culture of Justice which is led by the University of the West Indies working with a consortium of CSOs, and DECIDES Trinidad and Tobago, led by the Interarts Foundation, that are aimed at combatting GBV and also discrimination and violence due to sexual orientation.
  • We will continue with the “Let’s Talk TT” Campaign that we run jointly with the British High Commission and the “Life after Today” campaign through which we bring local influencers to primary and secondary schools to discuss violence.
  • Earlier this month, the Delegation launched a Call for Proposals for human rights projects where gender-based violence is included as one of the areas of focus.  The Call deadline is July 24th.
  • And finally I am happy to announce that the EU has earmarked an allocation of 4.5 million EUR under the EU-UN Spotlight Initiative to eliminate violence against women and girls that will be implemented by the UN.
  • I am looking forward to the upcoming discussion and contributions from the panellists.

Thank you.


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