In addition to the new Domestic Violence Bill...


In addition to the new Domestic Violence Bill...

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

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Prime Minister Andrew Holness is to be commended for speaking pointedly about the issue of domestic violence on a political stage on Sunday this week.

In fact, Mr Holness went further to address what he correctly labelled “a corrosive permissiveness for violence in our society” as he appealed to the men who support the Jamaica Labour Party, and indeed those who form the membership, to refrain from engaging in physical abuse of women.

We have long argued in this space that our political leaders should use the considerable sway they have over their many supporters to influence behaviour that is civil and lawful.

If that were done on a more consistent basis we suspect that this country would not be experiencing so many instances of indiscipline, disorder, crime and violence. We are not here saying that everyone would toe the line, but messages of decent behaviour, repeated by leaders who set examples for those whom they serve, can have some lasting positive effect.

Mr P J Patterson, during his tenure as prime minister, made such an attempt with his values and attitudes programme. Unfortunately, it did not receive the type of support that would have given it the results it truly deserved.

On Sunday, Mr Holness told his Labour Party supporters, and by extension the country, that his Administration is now reviewing the issue of domestic violence with the hope of tabling a new Bill.

That can't happen quickly enough, because the country is now seeing too many instances of intimate partner violence that have led to death.

But even with the passage of a new Domestic Violence Bill — which, to be of any real value, must have teeth — there needs to be a major cultural shift in the country because, as the prime minister rightfully noted on Sunday, the society has accepted and fostered a system of permissive violence that allows men to “trespass on the person of a woman without any form of rebuke”.

The problem, though, stretches beyond the confines of intimate relationships; it is entrenched in our way of life, as too many of us — adults and children alike — believe that violence is the only route to settling disputes. Additionally, too many parents/guardians instil in their children — wittingly or unwittingly — the thought that aggressive and boorish behaviour is a substitute for dialogue, decency, and rational debate.

A significant number of attempts to erase coarse behaviour have been made over many years, and there still exist programmes aimed at obtaining that ideal. Based on what is happening in the society now, the administrators of these programmes need help. That is why it is important for all well-thinking Jamaicans to play a role in these efforts. And the politicians, we hold, can help a great deal if they use their political platforms to repeatedly reinforce the message that violence, of any type, is unacceptable.

Now is a most opportune time as, from all indications, we are entering the election silly season.

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