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IDEVAW 2021: JFJ urges survivors of GBV to access legal services - All Woman - Jamaica Observer
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IDEVAW 2021: JFJ urges survivors of GBV to access legal services

JAMAICANS  for  Justice  (JFJ)  is urging  people  who  have  experienced gender-based violence (GBV) to consider getting legal support in order to claim their rights and access justice. GBV, it says, is a human rights violation and people, including men, who  experience violence, face discrimination and indignity. 

As the world starts to observe the annual 16 Days of Activism against GBV, JFJ says it stands with other organisations globally fighting for the rights of the most vulnerable and underserved. This observance, which runs from November 25 to December 10, is used  by  individuals  and  groups  to  call  for  the  elimination  of  all  forms  of violence against women.

This year's focus is to bring to the forefront the voices of women and girls who have survived violence, who are defending women's rights every day and are taking action.  

JFJ, through  its  Justice  for  Persons  Experiencing  GBV  Initiative  launched  in  2020,  has  helped  scores  of  people, primarily women, to access justice. To date, the organisation has been approached with a vast array of GBV-related cases with people seeking help with protection and occupation orders while needing redress for correlated matters such as child custody, maintenance and divorce.

 “In Jamaica, GBV remains widespread and prevalent across different socioeconomic groups. Recent data suggests that approximately 28 per cent of Jamaican women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime,” said Executive Director Mickel Jackson. 

 “At JFJ, while we provide avenues for legal recourse for people who have experienced GBV, we continue to conduct legal  literacy  sessions  in  several  communities  so  that  people  are  not  only  aware  of  their  rights,  but  are  also encouraged to make reports when they see rights of others being violated.”

While  non-governmental  organisations  like  JFJ  continue  to  work  in  spaces  where  there  is  limited  support  being provided, JFJ is also encouraging the Government of Jamaica to do its part and provide better governance and legal protection to deal with GBV.

“JFJ acknowledges that the recently passed Sexual Harassment Bill is a step in the right direction, but notes that it is simply not enough to address the significant legislative gaps to respond to GBV,” the group said.

“The  2018  report  of  the  Joint  Select  Committee  of  Parliament  which  reviewed  the  Sexual  Offences  Act  and  other pieces of related laws including the Domestic Violence Act (DVA) recommended that the DVA be overhauled. Three years later, the GOJ has moved at a snail's pace to overhaul the legislation with merely making an announcement on June 8, 2021 that the DVA would be tabled in Parliament for amendments.”

It said the current DVA has a plethora of limitations including:

• No clear definition of what amounts to domestic violence in Jamaica;

• The Act does not itemise a wide range of specifications to define the scope of a protection order;

• The duties and powers of the police under the legislation is not clearly defined, enabling law enforcement officials to provide an appropriate response to GBV victims; and

• The punishment specified for the violation of a protection order is a small fine ($10,000) or a short term of imprisonment, neither of which is serious enough to act as a deterrent.

Along with bolstering the legislation, JFJ is also calling for protection orders issued by the court to be introduced as a material fact, as this could assist persons who have experienced violence in their legal matters such as child custody, maintenance and dissolution of property.  

 “Although GBV is not a new issue, the pandemic has brought a new level of attention and urgency and there is a need for key decision-makers in government to act now to protect victims and survivors of GBV.”

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