What can women really do to keep themselves safe?

What can women really do to keep themselves safe?

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

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Dear Editor,

It is of utmost concern that women are barely afforded the opportunity to protect themselves in the event that someone seeks to violate their person. Very often we hear of instances in which women are attacked and/or kidnapped, sometimes by strangers and sometimes by people they love and trust. Yet, they are unable to successfully access effective legal methods of protection and are told that certain items they wish to use for protection are illegal.

Women are told to contact the police if they think their lives are in danger. Yet, there have been instances in which complaints fall on deaf ears because it is 'a man and woman' situation and, apparently, “when head touch pillow things change”. In other instances, women have reported that the officers to whom they make the complaint take advantage of their vulnerability and make overly friendly advances toward them. At times, the complaints are not addressed because the advances were not welcomed.

Women are told to leave if they share a habitat with their partner. However, time and again, we have seen instances of women leaving only to be trailed and attacked in the very spaces they were supposed to be safe. Two victims who come to mind are Nevia Sinclair in St Elizabeth and Shanika Dixon in Manchester. Sinclair was killed in her parents' home, while Dixon was murdered at a friend's home. Unfortunately Dixon's friend, Ilora Mullings, was also murdered, perhaps for daring to assist a friend who was being abused. So, where then are women safe?

It seems then that the woman loses regardless of the route she takes. If she fights back, she is killed. If she leaves, she is hunted and killed. If she stays, she is loved to death, and if she is successful in killing her abuser, the justice system penalises her for daring to protect herself.

She cannot procure a pepper spray or taser, nor can she carry a knife. What is expected is that she stays and takes whatever comes her way without so much as a murmur, even if it leads to her death.

Some say that they have tried, unsuccessfully, to acquire a licensed firearm. And, of course, it is illegal to carry one without a permit. So, in the event she is grabbed and pulled into a car, or otherwise attacked, she has no form of defence.

The questions, then, are as follows:

* How do women protect themselves?

* Do we break the law and get the pepper spray or the taser?

* Do we depend on the police to come when we call? Will they get there on time or when we are dead?

* Do we risk facing the court for a knife or illegal firearm?

* Where do we run to if we will still be hunted and killed?

* Restraining orders do not work, so how do the ministries of national security and justice intend to provide protection for us?

* At what point will the men be held accountable, instead of women being advised to avoid provoking men?

* Who will protect us?

Recently, the Caribbean Development Bank revealed that a report suggested that Jamaica's population is predicted to plunge by 50 per cent at the end of the century. If the current attacks against women continue, the fertility rates will fall even more.

Meanwhile, there has to be a drive to address the seemingly common view that women are commodities to be used and manipulated for the gratification of all and sundry. Start first with re-educating our young men. Jamaica's predominantly black population has always had a strong West African tradition, where women in society are revered and highly valued. They are often the safest means of tracing one's lineage. That respect was transferred to Jamaica, and every woman became our auntie, mother, grandmother, etc, and was protected. We need the revival of the protective community that raised the child, taught the men, and supported the women. Only then can we begin to see a change in the way society treats women and the respect we have for self and life.

Saundrie Shaw


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