Special measures to be introduced as prime minister points to social issues for attacks on womenWednesday, April 14, 2021
BY ARTHUR HALL
PRIME Minister Andrew Holness has declared that his Administration is moving to systematically address the problem of acquaintance violence which is plaguing Jamaica.
Speaking with the Jamaica Observer two days before a video went viral allegedly showing one of his Members of Parliament, George Wright, abusing a woman, Holness noted the outrage that has followed the much-publicised killing of a number of women across the island in recent weeks. While he pointed out that females make up a relatively small per cent of the island's murder victims, Holness accepted that this is a major issue which must be addressed.
“What we are seeing happening, and I am happy for it, is a greater sense of public outrage, because it is not just the murder of women, it is the deeper problem of abuse, of intimate partner violence, of domestic violence, which end up in the ultimate expression of violence, which is murder,” said Holness.
“We are noticing that a significant number of crimes are now being classified as acquaintance crimes, meaning that the victim knows the perpetrator and that there is an issue, usually not commercial, that is involved.
“These are issues which speak to the social problems in the society. What is it in the social environment that is leading Jamaicans to bring violence to its ultimate which is to take someone's life? It is a question that every Jamaican must answer,” added Holness as he underscored that this is an issue which he has been speaking on for some 15 years.
According to Holness, this issue of how Jamaicans treat each other, particularly how men treat women and the use of violence to settle conflicts, is worrying.
“We have a huge problem in that culturally, we are still in a place where we have a perspective on what a man should be, but that cultural notion does not square up with what women are doing. Women in Jamaica are significant economic agents of their own free will. They are getting higher results in education, many of them are moving up the pay grade, though there is still the gap, but it is a gap that is closing.
“So women are not as dependent as before and women have demonstrated a higher level of social responsibility. The boys on the other hand, they are not doing well in schools, by and large. They will get jobs but they are not going to always get the best jobs or the highest-paying jobs because they are not getting the educational results to claim on that,” declared Holness.
He pointed out that the profile of crime in Jamaica is young boys killing young boys.
“But we have grown numb to that, we have grown accustomed to that – it has become part of the backdrop of the conversation,” said Holness.
The PM argued that the killing of women is hitting home now because there is access to more information and persons are seeing the killing of the women in their space more and more and without filters.
“So you are not depending on the Observer to bring you what is happening. You are seeing a picture come to your phone of someone's throat slashed, bleeding out on the ground.
“Obviously this will offend and create outrage in any society. So there is an element, but there is also an element of awareness that there is a set of persons in our society…who are seeing what is happening in our society [and] who are intellectually outraged and so they are speaking out,” said Holness.
The prime minister said the Government is paying attention to that fact that the killings are creating a mood of hopelessness and helplessness.
He argued that while the issue of intimate partner violence has to be addressed with more than policing, the State has a role to play and is prepared to do that.
“We have had discussions with the commissioner of police and we all agree that the commissioner is well advanced in changing the stance of the police. The police force has to be far more sensitive and far more responsive to issues of domestic disputes. Intimate partners make a complaint and it is dismissed as man and woman business, that cultural response must leave the force.
“Every officer in charge of a station, every duty officer, every policeman must elevate these crimes as priority and treat with them with the greatest level of sensitivity,” declared Holness.
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