Eliminating gender-based violence

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

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We note Cabinet Minister Miss Olivia “Babsy” Grange's recent reminder about the 2007 Strategic Action Plan to eliminate gender-based violence in Jamaica.

Even the blind and deaf know that male-on-female violence is a huge problem in this country. The countless reports of men killing wives, girlfriends, exes and sometimes killing themselves as well merely underline the point.

We know that gender violence as an aspect of wider domestic abuse is universal, but it seems to us that it is particularly prevalent here.

Some Jamaican men clearly feel they own women — perhaps flowing from deeply embedded cultural/religious beliefs which, at the very least, suggest the superiority of man in any relationship with a woman.

Miss Grange tells us that as part of the '07 Action Plan, her ministry (Culture, Gender and Entertainment) is leading an all-island social media campaign in key strategic priority areas to increase the protection of women and girls, “while engaging men and boys as key partners in the ongoing programme to provide empowerment”.

“Men are known as the main perpetrators of violence against women, and so we have to include them… we have to bring them in as partners to work with women to eliminate violence,” Miss Grange told a recent forum to commemorate International Women's Day.

Additionally, she said the Government has partnered with faith-based organisations… to ensure that the spiritual, social, psychosocial and other basic needs of women are addressed.

We assume that Government's partnership with faith-based and other organisations will also facilitate transmission of the message to men that contrary to age-old beliefs they have no right of control over women.

Men need to understand that their wives and girlfriends have the right to exit relationships and such decisions should be respected and accepted, regardless of the emotional pain.

Given the modern realities, we can't fault the Government's initiative in opting for a social media campaign to change behaviour.

However, it seems to us that for the long term, emphasis should be schools. Boys and girls from a very early age — all the way through infant, primary and high schools — should be so conditioned and socialised that respect across gender lines will most times come to the fore, even overcoming the negative behaviour witnessed and experienced in many homes.

Of course, there is also an economic aspect to the man-woman relationship. We are aware that many women are so economically dependent on their male partners that some men feel they have a right to abuse and 'tek liberty'.

And without making the direct link, Miss Grange, in her International Women's Day speech, did point to the need for women and girls to be trained to achieve their highest potential and thereby gain economic independence.

Miss Grange said the society had a responsibility to provide training for women and girls in old and emerging technologies, allowing them to become innovators “without any barriers to their participation and ensure that no woman and no girl is left behind”.

While it's clear that our young men must equally have access to training and opportunities, the point being made is well taken.

It seems to us that as Jamaica draws closer to full employment, there will be far more economic independence for all, and much less of the gender-based abuse and violence now so prevalent.

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