Monday was observed as international day for the elimination of violence against women. It is reported that domestic violence is a serious issue facing women in Belize. It is estimated that almost ninety percent of violent crimes against women are carried out by their spouse or partner. This type of violence does not discriminate and may affect women of all ethnicities and classes. The annual Sixteen Days of Activism to End Gender-Based violence was officially launched this past Friday and many organizations have joined forces to combat this overwhelming social issue in Belize. One such organization is the Domestic Violence Unit of the Belize Police Department. We spoke to Sergeant, Martha Reece, who leads the unit, to gain a better understanding of the resources they are making available to victims of abuse.
“The unit deals with domestic violence, family violence; it doesn’t necessarily have to be within the home, we have extended it to family but we deal with domestic violence, we deal with reports of emotional, physical and if we need to arrest and charge we also deal with that. We also provide information because a lot of people come in wanting to know how to go about dealing with the family courts in terms of orders, protection orders, maintenance and everything and we also deal with that.”
“We have had a lot of women in an abusive situation but have not made that step to report it as yet. What would you say to them?”
“Well we would say that every report does not necessarily have to be taken to the court so even if you wish to come in even on record for future reference we also do that. It’s not all reports that we have to arrest and charge and there are also options that you can take through the family court without having to be separated because you have orders like undertaking orders where the man would undertake that he would not do certain things as in physically abuse them or emotionally; so, they can also do that.”
For those who need urgent assistance the Domestic Violence Unit is open to the public 24 hours a day, every day of the week. The hotline number is 0-800-292-9688 or you can call 223-1080. The office is located on the premises of the Queen Street Police Station, Belize City.