Domestic violence is a serious problem on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, with women and children being the main victims, reports The Daily Herald. For the original Dutch version of the report see under the announcements on SabaNews. Poverty is the main trigger. The Dutch Government wants to tackle this deep-rooted problem and make an agreement with the local governments next month. Dutch State Secretary of Public Health, Wellbeing and Sports Martin van Rijn sent the report “Tackling domestic violence in the Caribbean Netherlands” by the firm Regioplan of Amsterdam to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament on Monday, along with a cabinet reaction.
The study by Regioplan was carried out on behalf of several ministries. The report cites a number of shortcomings on the islands to combat domestic violence. Registration is poor. There is no advice and reporting point for domestic violence and registration by police also doesn’t show a realistic view, also because domestic violence is a taboo and therefore people are often reserved about reporting such.
Authorities and organisations all indicated that domestic violence is a widespread phenomenon, which is closely related to the poverty issue on the islands. The impression reigns that domestic violence often concerns heavy forms of physical violence, more so than in the Netherlands. Half of the female population and almost forty per cent of the male population have been the victim of domestic violence at one point in their life. Mutual violence was more often mentioned by respondents on Bonaire in the study of Regioplan than on St. Eustatius and Saba. Especially women are more often the victims of physical and sexual violence, while mental violence and violence against children also occurs a lot.
“Prevalence of domestic violence is perseverant, because it is closely connected to the poverty issue. The relative poor living conditions of a part of the population are a trigger for domestic violence and makes this continue,” it is stated in the report. Housing problems and too many persons living in a relatively small house is also a contributing factor.
Major causes can be found in the culture of upbringing, which is characterised by a household of strict order (docility, physical reward and punishment) in which children are not involved and stimulated to give their opinion, and the forming of a positive identity. Also, physical violence from an upbringing perspective is part of a leading culture on the islands.
The current approach of domestic violence is fragmented and not very intensive. There is almost no structural information given at schools. General public information is absent. Prevention activities, specifically aimed towards risk groups, are limited and the possibilities to assist and coach victims are limited, if not absent.
According to authors of the report, the fight against domestic violence requires a “strong policy management of the local governments. The first step is the drafting of an implementation plan. The second step is the setting up of facilities to assist victims in the form of a safe house for women and children. The third step is a permanent public awareness campaign. The fourth step is investing in the capacity of the assistance structure.
State Secretary Van Rijn said in his letter that the results of the study were “reason for concern.” He said the Netherlands was obliged to tackle domestic violence in the Caribbean Netherlands. He said this was not only important because government has to comply with the 2012 Convention of Istanbul of the Council of Europe to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence, but also because it is “unacceptable” that victims of domestic violence don’t receive the assistance they so need. According to Van Rijn, the tackling of domestic violence cannot be seen separately from a broad approach of the social problems. “Only when progress is made in these areas, investing in the tackling of domestic violence will result in a truly structural improvement of the situation in the Caribbean Netherlands,” he stated. Solid agreements on an integral approach are necessary to, together with the Executive Councils, firmly tackle the issue, the State Secretary noted. Minister of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Ronald Plasterk, as coordinating minister for the Caribbean Netherlands, will be involved in the process to come to agreements with the local governments on short term. Domestic violence will be included in the process to tackle children’s rights on the islands. The so-called Caribbean Netherlands Week in The Hague in mid-June will offer the possibility to come to agreements with the island governments on an integral approach of the broad social problem, Van Rijn stated.