End the violence against women!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

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We would not be doing any injustice to our Jamaican women if we said that yesterday's commemoration of United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW) was more of a whimper than a bang.

With the alarming levels of violence faced by women in Jamaica, we should be making a lot more noise and expressing far more outrage at one of the worst manifestations of societal dysfunction.

Ignorance about violence against women is no excuse for not attacking this dreadful problem. We were warned in the Women's Health Survey in 2016 that one in every four Jamaican women has experienced physical violence by a male partner.

To put that in its proper context, the UN this year has declared that Jamaica is the world's second biggest murderer of women, something they call femicide, with 11 out of every 100,000 women being killed in 2017. This is indeed staggering.

Only El Salvador, with 13.9 out of every 100,000 women murdered in 2017, was worse than Jamaica in the number of “intentional homicides” committed, according to UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

It is even more difficult to contemplate the fact that so many of the murders and violence against women and girls are being carried out by family members in Jamaica and the rest of the world.

Every day, 137 women and girls were intentionally killed by their partner or a family member somewhere in the world in 2017, the sordid UN statistics revealed. This adds up to over 50,000 women's lives ended by those closest to them.

Not surprisingly, this scourge was blamed on deep-rooted gender inequality and damaging stereotypes of women as weaker and less valuable members of society in the eyes of cowardly men.

The horrific acts against women, in many cases, were being witnessed in the home by children who would carry the scar into adulthood and go on, in some cases, to contribute to the ever-present intergenerational cycle of violence.

This is not a figment of someone's imagination. The UN tells us that both global and local research has shown that children who are exposed to violence have a greater likelihood of becoming victims or perpetrators of domestic violence later in life.

The 2016 Jamaica Women's Health Survey found that almost half of women who experienced intimate partner sexual violence had been beaten as children. Close to 30 per cent who experienced intimate partner physical violence in their lifetime had seen their mother beaten.

Every Jamaican must see this problem of violence against women and girls as a problem to be solved today and must ask him/herself if that is not the reason for the epidemic of violence that we have regrettably come to accept as normal.

We endorse the call by the UN on women who are victims of domestic violence to seek help to protect themselves and their children. We also join the call on the Government of Jamaica to help ensure that children who witness violence are provided with psycho-social support to cope and heal.

Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange is not wrong in declaring in her IDEVAW message that: “The attacks are not inevitable — we can end the violence, but it requires all of us to end the violence.”


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