What is the response of the State, Minister Grange?

What is the response of the State, Minister Grange?

Thursday, January 16, 2020

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Dear Editor,

The following is an open letter to Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange:

Jamaica rang in the new year with the report that 24-year-old Shantell White had been murdered by her boyfriend. Recently, we were informed of the murder of 34-year-old Suianne Easy, who was chopped to death. And hours later we became aware of 27-year-old Nevia Sinclair's death.

Women are unsafe in Jamaica. We cannot safely navigate spaces without the fear of being harassed, assaulted or murdered; from catcalling and street harassment that the public covers as “men being men” to abusive partners.

History shows that, in relation to women, men are murderers; they are lawless and are not held responsible for their actions. As a nation, we are too comfortable asking or, rather, blaming women for their untimely deaths by their partners. Why do we disregard the actions of men to ask what is the role of the woman in her own death? Why are we comfortable with blaming women?

“But what did she do?”, “So why didn't she leave?” It is a tactic that is used to avail men of the responsibility of their actions.

We have seen this happen and have now become desensitised to it. We assume that she has done so great a crime that the punishment is death.

The UN Report of 2017 found that the percentage of women killed by intimate partners or other family members rose from 47 per cent in 2012 to 58 per cent in 2017. Still, the idea that men are to be the head of a household is pervasive in this society, even though we have had quite a number of single-parent households led by women.

This idea of men as the sovereign ruler of spaces has been passed down and morphed into male entitlement. This causes men to believe that they possess women and are free to do as they please without being reprimanded by the law or the public.

When we ask, “Why do women stay in relationships that are abusive?” we forget that the cycle of abuse is well understood by men. The nature of abuse thrives on the fact that one person has more power and accessibility in comparison to the other. They are aware that men are paid more than women, that there is a level of respectability reserved solely for men, that there are spaces that women are unable to safely exist in with men. To put it frankly, women are treated as second-class citizens in their own homes. In light of this, what is the response of the State?

Members of our security personnel are often the perpetrators of violence against our women. Why is it that individuals who are to protect us are killing us? What does this say about our problems with crime?

The response of these institutions seems lenient on their members who commit this crime, quite often when we hear of officers killing women we are told it is because of a mental illness. We cannot joke about the seriousness of mental health, using it as a scapegoat to detract from the issue at hand. The State has a duty to the safety of its people and. yet, it does not respond to calls to intervene during a fight, it does not intervene when reports are made, it does not train its personnel to manage their emotional and mental well-being, so what does it say?

As the minister with the gender portfolio, I am disappointed in your response to this issue. Where are the discussions about women's right to autonomy? Women's right to safety? Women's right to life? Where are the conversations that help women to identify abusive actions, understand the cycle of violence and abuse, sensitisation of law enforcers to women's issues, and holding our security forces accountable? We expect more of you, Minister, we expect you to start a national dialogue on the vulnerability of women and how we will be protected. What are your plans, Minister, women would like to know.

Shantae Porteous

Concerned woman and potential victim

porteous.shantae@gmail.


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