Editorial

Where are we with the domestic violence shelter?

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

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ON the heels of the publication of Jamaica's Women's Health Survey, which revealed that a quarter of Jamaican women (25.2 per cent) have experienced physical violence by a male partner, it was announced that Jamaica's first State-run women's shelter for victims of domestic violence would be operational by the end of last year. However, eight months into 2019, and with funds being allocated to set up two additional shelters, the doors of the first shelter is yet to be opened.

“We know that before the end of the year we will have the shelter up and running. We got a good deal on the property as we were able to purchase [it] in addition to the furniture,” Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Ms Olivia Grange said in June of last year.

As the year end approached, however, the end of the financial year on March 31 was eyed as the new projected opening date by the ministry, which informed the Jamaica Observer that final touches were being made to the space before opening.

Earlier this year, it was also announced by the ministry that for the 2019/2020 fiscal year, approximately $86 million was allocated for the purchase of two additional shelters in the eastern and western regions of Jamaica for women affected by domestic violence.

In her contribution to the 2019/20 sectoral debate in the House of Representatives, on July 23, Minister Grange did not provide a timeline in which we could expect the first shelter to be operational.

“We are moving through the process to operationalise the first national shelter for women,” the minister said. “You will recall that we purchased a property last year and we are doing the work to transform the space. At the same time, we have been looking to purchase two other properties this year so that we can establish at least three national shelters — one in each county,” the minister said.

While we applaud the strides that the ministry is making in providing a safe space for women who want to flee violent relationships in all three counties, we are also cognisant of the rising number of women who have died in domestic disputes since the beginning of this year.

Just this April, Minister Grange implored women in violent relationships to contact the Bureau of Gender Affairs for support, saying: “I say to any woman who is in an abusive relationship and is worried that she cannot leave because she has nowhere to go… no friend… no family… call us. We are ready to give any woman the support she needs to leave an abusive man and get on with her life.”

Without at least one operational shelter, however, a woman in an abusive relationship, even after counselling, will remain tethered to her abuser if she has nowhere else to go.

The clock is ticking, Minister.


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