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Grange wants more penalties for deadbeat dads

BY BALFORD HENRY,
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Senior Government Minister Olivia “Babsy” Grange has suggested more penalties for fathers who fail to support their children.

Grange, who was among the main speakers at Thursday's International Men's Day Forum at Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, said the matter was a major concern for her Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, and that she has asked the Bureau of Gender Affairs to consider new strategies to deal with the issue.

“A major concern is the many fathers in Jamaica who are not supporting their children. This is especially evident at times like back to school when there are numerous requests for assistance,” Grange told the forum.

“In fact, even when some of these mothers have child support orders from the court, for a number of reasons they are not enforced, even when the father is easily accessible,” she stated.

“I have asked the Bureau of Gender Affairs to have the necessary consultations with the relevant stakeholders, including the judiciary, the police, church, and business, to look at strategies to encourage men to be more responsible in supporting their children; and to explore punitive measures for those who fail to support their children, even after receiving court orders. We should not continue to allow the total burden of bringing up children to rest entirely on women,” she added.

The forum was the banner event, following a special commemorative church service held at Constant Spring Road Church of God last Sunday. Minister of state in the ministry, Alando Terrelonge, read a message on behalf of the minister at that event, in which she urged Jamaican men not to be scared of wearing their masks during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

This year's local theme, 'A Man's Health is a Man's Wealth: Men and Healthy Lifestyle Practices During the Pandemic', aims to encourage Jamaican men to continue the effort to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus, and to sensitise both men and boys on how to improve their mental and physical health.

At Thursday's event, Grange said that, as minister with responsibility for gender affairs, she remains committed to supporting Jamaican men and boys, including those within the Diaspora.

The Special Service Unit for Men in the Bureau of Gender Affairs was designed to address issues affecting our men and boys in Jamaica, she noted.

She pointed out that through partnerships, the Bureau of Gender Affairs has hosted workshops, seminars, conferences and counselling sessions to promote positive images of men and boys and address different aspects of manhood and fatherhood.

“These sessions have helped to foster greater parenting skills and provided men with the resources to play a more active role in the lives of their children and, by extension, the family,” she said, before asking the men and boys present to stand and be recognised for their continued contribution to the society.

Twenty fathers were honoured at the function for their devotion to their children.

Other speakers at the forum were Dwayne Extol, a former Wolmer's Boys' High School track athlete and a sport analyst in the broadcast media; Chad Lambert of the Jamaica Mental Health Advocacy Network; Mark Mattocks, nutrition consultant and personal trainer; Jerome Edwards, community prevention outreach and testing officer; and Nashan Miller, acting policy analyst.

The ministry said the theme of International Men's Day was to raise awareness of men's health and well-being; recognise and celebrate their contribution to social, cultural and economic development of the Jamaican society; and to forge linkages with multiple stakeholders and male interest groups.