I am A Guyanese woman living in Trinidad and Tobago and I continue to be disheartened by the ways xenophobia and sexism dominate the experiences of Venezuelan migrants in the country. The most recent public display of this is in the unkind and harmful comments and posts seen on social media about the incident of sexual and physical assault meted out against a Venezuelan woman in Trinidad and Tobago. This lack of empathy needs to be addressed. Where is our humanity as Caribbean people?
Over the years we have experienced increased movements of Venezuelans to Trinidad and Tobago, because of economic and political instability, and it is estimated that there are about 40,000 Venezuelans in the country, most of whom are women.
In the “Venezuelan Crisis Response Plan for Migrants and Refugees,” it was highlighted that although the majority of Venezuelan nationals are in need of international protection, single women, females who are survivors of gender-based violence and those at risk for gender-based violence are particularly vulnerable.
As many Venezuelan women migrate to secure a better life for themselves and their families, the realities associated with living in Trinidad and Tobago can be violent and ultimately deadly.
In a recent academic publication by my colleague and I, we document stories from 12 Venezuelan migrant women who shared that their greatest worry while in Trinidad and Tobago is the sexual, verbal and at times physical abuse they experience daily.
They shared that they are constantly called derogatory names when walking the streets, are forced to perform sexual favours by employers and are continuously extorted by landlords who often demand sex in addition to rent for temporary housing. These experiences are in addition to challenging interactions with immigration officers and the TTPS, and the constant stares and curses that are hurled at them as they traverse the country.
This does not have to be the norm. Despite our personal opinions on the circumstances of Venezuelans’ arrival to Trinidad and Tobago, or on the ways we think they live, we have a right to be kind and show empathy to others in need.
Trinidad and Tobago is a land of opportunity for many, including myself who moved here towards professional development.
It is therefore our responsibility to not only say we do not harm others, but to ensure those around us are held accountable for their actions. Venezuelan migrant women need to be respected in Trinidad and Tobago. That should be our focus as people who share this twin island Republic.