Almost 7,500 calls to gender-based violence helpline
With the official launch of a gender-based violence (GBV) helpline, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia “Babsy” Grange has argued that men cannot be left out or discouraged from seeking help when they experience gender-based violence (GBV).
The gender-based violence helpline was officially launched during a special ceremony at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Wednesday to observe International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 2023, which was commemorated worldwide last Saturday.
In announcing the launch, Grange noted that more than 2,000 men have used the helpline since it was started in 2022.
“The unit ensures that all women and girls, men and boys affected or exposed to gender-based violence can access professional psychosocial support and necessary treatment.
“The unit undertakes a multisectoral approach to provide support services to survivors by creating a serious link to service providers under each ministry, department, and agency through the gender-based violence pathway. The unit provides support to survivors and victims of GBV at the community and national level,” said Grange.
“Through the helpline, people affected can obtain access to essential services 24/7, all night, and during public holidays. The GBV helpline unit is the gateway to the national shelter. To date, the unit has dealt with 7,466 cases, with 5,227 females and 2,239 males. We are talking about helplines for women and men. The men are not left out. The police are getting more and more calls from men being abused by women.
“It is important that we treat with the gender portfolio in a way where our men are not left behind. Sometimes the abuse they perpetrate may be out of some kind of mental problem. Maybe there are those who are just violent. Certainly, our work is important in saving lives. A man calling that helpline may just be that one call that prevented him from doing something. There have been murder suicides,” added Grange.
She noted that in order to strengthen the local GBV prevention framework, partnerships have been forged with the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Victim Services Division, the Jamaica Fire Brigade, the Women’s Crisis Centre, the Ministry of Labour and Social Security as well as the Child Protection and Family Services Agency to provide a coordinated response to GBV.
According to Grange, international partners are also involved in the effort to reduce GBV in Jamaica.
“The 2023 Unite International, a United Nations (UN)-initiated campaign, themed Invest to Prevent Violence Against Women and Girls, aligns with our ongoing efforts to provide gender-responsive financing. It has been a tremendous inspiration and encouragement to see the support we have received from international partners.
“Through the Spotlight Initiative, United Nations Population Fund, the Bureau of Gender Affairs has been provided with technical and financial support for the establishment and operationalisation of three shelters and coordination of response platform for gender-based violence survivors in Jamaica,” said Grange.
“Support includes the employment of three gender-based helpline specialists and one supervisor within the Bureau of Gender Affairs to provide psychological support, counselling, and training to equip the specialists with psychological first aid information as well as remote crisis emergency management, an information and communication technology (ICT) consultant to assist with ICT infrastructure of the shelters and the GBV helpline at the Bureau of Gender Affairs,” added Grange at the function where the Sexual Harassment Unit within the Bureau of Gender Affairs was also officially launched.
“Our accomplishments so far include the Sexual Harassment Protection and Prevention Act, which came into effect on July 3, 2023. It contains provisions for dealing with sexual harassment in the workplace, in schools, correctional institutions, places of safety, nursing homes, medical and psychiatric facilities, among other spaces where sexual harassment may arise, like in landlord and tenant relationships,” Grange pointed out.
She underscored that with the legislation now in place a Sexual Harassment Investigation Unit was established on April 1, 2022 which is responsible for handling matters regarding sexual harassment in the workplace.
“The unit supports the work of the gender affairs ministry. The unit will interview complainants, witnesses, and employees regarding cases of alleged sexual harassment, provide technical and logistical support to the sexual harassment tribunal, coordinating training for tribunal and authorised members, and conducting sexual harassment sensitisation sessions in various organisations,” Grange said.