American University
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Flagwomen: The struggle against domestic violence in Trinidad and Tobago

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posted on 2023-09-06, 03:06 authored by Meryl M. James-Sebro

In Trinidad and Tobago---a two-island Caribbean nation situated at the northern tip of South America---one in four women are victims of some form of domestic violence. Beginning in the mid-eighties, a number of organisations emerged in response to spiraling domestic violence. These organisations have been successful in publicising, delegitimising and criminalising domestic violence. This study questions the ways specific women's organisations address domestic violence at the individual, community and society levels within the context of Trinidad's gender, ethnic and class stratification. In addition it examines the extent to which popular organisations that oppose domestic violence address the strategic interest of deepening poverty and structured gendered inequality and open new political spaces for women. Several anthropological research methods were utilised: structured and informal interviews, life stories, participant observation and focus groups. The methodology included interviews with leaders of 20 organisations in the forefront of the struggle against domestic violence, and in-depth interviews of members of two organisations. The study examines increasing domestic violence within the context of the perception of tremendous material gains by women, yet there seems to be a lack of corresponding success in the ideological sphere. It documents the associational power women glean through joining women's organisations and assesses the degree of women's collective empowerment, based on the "transformative intention" and "transformatory potential" of organisations. Monitoring organisational activities presents an opportunity to examine the validity of analytical frameworks that dichotomize feminine and feminist organisations. Findings illustrate the impact of state formation on the interconnection of ethnicity, class and gender, global macro policies on the household, and the ways in which tensions from class and ethnic divisions constrain women's collective empowerment and widespread collaboration and action. State violence against women emerges as a critical element in contributing to an environment which continues to nurture and perpetuate domestic violence, and which this research links to the structural subjugation of women and an enduring patriarchy.







Thesis (Ph.D.)--American University, 2001.


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