How much in the Budget for shelters, Mr PM?

Monday, March 19, 2018

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Dear Editor,

While we seek to ensure that all public sector workers — not just the ones who we have fond memories of — are remunerated for their hard work, we should not lose sight of some critical promises that have been made by this Administration.

On the heels of International Women's Day, and based on statements made by the prime minister, I think the public would benefit from a clear outline of how much has been earmarked in the budget for the construction of three shelters for victims of domestic violence.

The only existing shelter in Jamaica has been kept afloat by the efforts of a non-governmental organisation committed to the rights of women, Woman Inc, and it is full time that the Government meets not only its international and regional human rights obligations, but its moral obligation to its people by protecting those who are most vulnerable.

In addition to ensuring that these shelters are adequately constructed to meet the needs of the population, which will include ensuring that they provide spaces for mothers who leave home with their children, the budget must also provide for adequate staffing and security.

Also, while the physical establishment of the shelters is a critical first step, the associated regulatory framework should be in development as we speak. This means strengthening the Domestic Violence Act that has been under review since last year, as well as ensuring that there are protective measures in place to deal with complications borne about legal issues such as custody and access to children.

Equally, the enforcement of protection orders that any victim of domestic violence may have been awarded by the courts must be part and parcel of the operations of these shelters. This requires developing close relationships with the Jamaica Constabulary Force and potentially may impact the decision of where a shelter should be developed.

While the promise of three shelters is admirable, the lack of conversation around the finer details is worrying. A greater commitment to human rights is a must at this stage of our national development, and this includes ensuring that an issue which disproportionately affects 51 per cent of our population is adequately addressed in budgetary conversations.

Glenroy Murray

Associate director, programmes & advocacy

Equality for All Foundation Jamaica Ltd

glenroy.am.murray@gmail.com

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