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Tim Cole

Former British Ambassador to Cuba

Part of FCDO Human Rights

24th November 2015 Havana, Cuba

Violence Against Women – It’s Your Responsibility

To all the men out there, this blog is for you. Please don’t close the window, tab or page. Don’t look away. Keep reading and click on the links. This isn’t a women’s issue, it’s a men’s issue. You need to understand it. And then do something about it.

Violence against women is horrible, brutal, cruel and widespread. It’s not just a human rights violation; it’s a violation of your wife, partner, daughter, mother or sister. A violation of someone you love. It needs to stop. You need to stop it. And you need to tell your friends, neighbours, relatives, drinking buddies and domino partners to stop it too.

The facts speak for themselves: 35% of women and girls worldwide experience physical or sexual violence, 50% of women killed worldwide were killed by their partners or family, 2.6 billion women and girls live in countries where marital rape is not explicitly criminalised, more than 4 million women and girls are victims of forced sexual exploitation, 700 million women alive today were married before they were 18, 250 million of them before the age of 15. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 40% of women have been victims of physical violence and 50% of women in intimate relationships have suffered psychological violence.

No country is immune. Not the UK, not Cuba, not anywhere. This is a global problem that governments are trying to address through mobilisation – the 25th of November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, conferences, laws, regulations and law enforcement. For example, the British government has led a global campaign to prevent sexual violence in conflict and to tackle female genital mutilation. We’ve also provided more support to protect women from domestic violence in the UK and to tackle sexual violence in university campuses. In Cuba, the FMC (Federación de Mujeres Cubanas) has a number of centres country-wide where women can seek help. And Oxfam, with British government support and the help of Cuban counterparts, is raising awareness of the issue and building capacity in Las Tunas and Pinar del Río provinces.

But the real solution to this terrible global tragedy will be found in people’s homes. Because it’s in people’s homes that women are hit, raped and shouted at and where children experience abuse and learn to be the abusers of tomorrow. The real solution is in the hands and hearts of men. It’s you who can make the difference. It’s you who can think and act differently, who can stop being so macho, stop thinking you are in charge and always right. It’s you who can accept you are in an equal relationship with your wife or partner and that the way to resolve any difference of opinion is not with your fists but with a conversation. It’s you who can do all of that.

Is that really a lot to ask? Is that really too big a change? Surely not. Don’t do it and you’ll remain a coward and a bully. Change and you’ll prove to everyone you’re really a man.

About Tim Cole

Hi! I’m Tim Cole, the British Ambassador to Cuba. I arrived in Havana in August 2012 and presented my credentials as British Ambassador the following month. I’ve been a diplomat…

Hi! I’m Tim Cole, the British Ambassador to Cuba. I arrived in Havana in August 2012 and presented my credentials as British Ambassador the following month. I’ve been a diplomat since 2001; before Cuba, I spent 5 years in London where I worked on Pan-African policy and global economic issues and 6 years in southern Africa as Deputy Head of Mission in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Most of my career has been in Africa as before joining the FCO I ran humanitarian aid programmes in Central Africa for the British NGOs Christian Aid and Save the Children. I’m married to Clare and we have 2 children – Jonathan and Zea.

The idea of this blog is to tell you what the British government is doing in Cuba and why. If you enjoy the blog and want to read more, please follow me on Twitter.