Treat violence against women and girls as a pandemic, Crawford urgesThursday, November 25, 2021
JOY Crawford, co-founder and executive director of the female support group Eve for Life, is urging the Government to begin to view violence against Jamaica's women and girls as a pandemic and treat it similar to how it has approached COVID-19.
Speaking with the Jamaica Observer on the eve of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (IDEVAW), which is being observed today, Crawford argued that while the conversations internationally speak about the pandemic of gender-based violence, we in Jamaica have not treated this scourge with the urgency and seriousness that it requires.
“We have a country where we have seen the fast-tracking of many other policies and legislation and actions that we consider an emergency. Violence against women internationally, and definitely here in Jamaica, is a pandemic,” declared Crawford.
“It is an emergency and every year we cannot continue to report the figures of women who have experienced domestic violence, physical violence, and sexual violence. It cannot continue and I don't see us treating violence against women with the same urgency as all other pandemics,” added Crawford.
She charged that the length of time that the Government takes to change policies to ensure that there is strong accountability of State actors, including the police, people in the health sector, policymakers, and community leaders, reflect the lack of attention being place on gender-based violence.
“The way that we take forever to enforce and to rectify punitive measures signifies that we have not valued the lives of women in our country.
“Where are the clear emergency actions that this country is prepared to take to ensure that we are reducing and approaching a long-term goal of eliminating the violence against our women and girls? That is one of the first things that we are not doing right. We haven't treated it as an emergency with emergency actions,” declared Crawford.
Responding to official data, which shows that women make up only approximately 10 per cent of the people killed in Jamaica each year, and the argument that there is a greater crisis of violence against men in Jamaica, Crawford argued that this is a misplaced comparison.
“We can no longer have a comparison, because it is not a comparison. What we are asking for is substantive equality.
“What we are saying is that… there are some unique things that women experience versus men that make them more vulnerable. For example, the woman is the one who gets pregnant and we see where a lot of women experience greater violence during pregnancy,” said Crawford.
“Every time that we have an International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women people say 'what happen to our men'. We cannot continue to have that comparison because what that comparison does, is that it keeps minimising the special circumstances under which women need special protection. The need for women to get special protection keeps being minimised because there is a constant comparison and almost a competition, which it is not,” Crawford declared.
The Eve for Life executive director told the Observer that because Jamaicans do not have the mindset to understand the severity and the urgency of violence against women, “all actions as a society continue to be mediocre and we have moved this from a nine-day to a seven-day and in a lot of instances, not even a one-day wonder”.
Crawford argued that when the comparison is made between violence against women and men, there must be a closer look at the women who are the majority of victims of violence.
“These are women who are defenceless, young women, women who are killed because their partners are obsessive and jealous and who decide that, 'if I'm not going to have you, then nobody can have you',” said Crawford.
Eve for Life helps abused women with social and economic support while working in communities to try to reduce the level of violence in these spaces. The entity also provides support with the sexual and reproductive health of girls.
— Arthur Hall