Third women’s march held
Women’s reproductive rights and the need to combat a culture of “shaming” were championed yesterday at an International Women’s March.
Women gathered at noon at Queen Elizabeth Park in Hamilton to celebrate this year’s global theme of #WomensWave, designed to combat domestic violence.
It marked Bermuda’s third Women’s March since protests in the United States in 2017 over the appointment of Donald Trump as president sparked a worldwide movement.
Dany Pen, founder of Women’s Action, Change, Today support group, said the feminist hashtag also acknowledged the high profile of women members in the US Congress this year.
But she warned against “blurring the boundaries” when it came to women’s rights in Bermuda compared to progress in America.
Ms Pen said: “People tend to confuse them, but our legislation isn’t the same.
“Some of our laws are very archaic, even though our culture seems like it’s progressive, the legislation is not.”
Ms Pen pointed out that abortion in Bermuda was “essentially illegal” outside the narrow criteria of rape, incest or cases where a woman’s life would be endangered or the child’s life would not be viable.
She said: “To get an abortion, you have to go before the hospital board and petition your case.
“You might hear that women here have abortions, but people don’t know the details. I know of women who have been rejected.”
Ms Pen added that an abortion in Bermuda “goes on your mental health record — it’s an unfortunate stigma and it stays there for life”.
She told the gathering that the island was still in “desperate need” of a haven for abused women.
Ms Pen said: “Women need an emergency shelter where they can go, 24 hours a day, and know they will be safe.”
Speakers yesterday included Laurie Shiell, executive director of the Centre Against Abuse, who said that the charity had already dealt with 20 clients since January 7.
Ms Shiell said: “People are reporting more, and reporting sooner. We also find that more people are reaching out for their friends.
“People are being encouraged to speak out and share their stories. We’re not finding that incidents are increasing — people are beginning to see that protection orders actually do something.
“These are more than words on paper. It’s a living, active document that protects people.”
Robyn Swan, a former Opposition senator, said women should support one another to raise the profile of women’s rights.
Ms Swan added: “It took me three days to find any statistics of violence and sexual assault on women in Bermuda. I went to the Department of Statistics, to the Bermuda Police Service online, and there was no information.
“That in itself should disturb every woman, every man and every child on this island.”
She asked the gathering to sign up to the Facebook group Move Bermuda Forward, a non-partisan group set up to provide “social, economic, and political resources for all Bermudians”.