Stop mere talk on gender-based violence... ACT!
Jamaica has been at this for too longTuesday, April 13, 2021
BY CAROLYN GRAHAM
It was with shock, horror, a deep sense of sadness, and a mix of other emotions that I cannot even describe that I listened to the recording of a man threatening the woman who dared to leave him because she felt unsafe. If this is not gender-based violence, I don't know what is. So, to the men in positions of power and influence who continue to spout this nonsensical narrative, I would suggest you begin to inform yourselves thoroughly and move beyond dubious data about a few prisoners who blame their mothers for their criminality.
More men are victims of murder, yes, but who are killing them at those rates? Who are the ones victimising women because they sport a particular type of masculinity? The man in the recording promised to kill her. He was lucid, quite rational; he outlined a plan. His toxic masculinity was on show. It was premeditated murder in the making.
And what is the country's response to this latest spate of gender-based violence? The press reports them and moves on to the next sensational thing. Then the minister with responsibility for gender affairs gives more impassioned pleas in Parliament.
In January 2020 there was another impassioned plea when the year started with a number of murders of women. And a year and few months after, the minister again made yet another impassioned plea for men to stop killing women and calling on the community and the Church — a quite dubious ally — to protect women.
More of the same.
In 2017 a National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence in Jamaica 2017-2027 was prepared by the Bureau of Gender Affairs with support from Canada and United Nations Women. This was launched in 2018. Further press releases showed that financial support was given by the UN to execute the plan. So, my question is: What has happened to this plan?
Rather than appealing to the “man dem pan di corna” and the Church, which presents more problems than solutions, we need to move to actions, because the talk is getting stale and does not bring result.
The National Plan to Eliminate Gender-Based Violence is in its third year now; where are we in the implementation of the recommendations? Have we fallen short, and why have we fallen short of what I have seen to be quite a comprehensive and executable plan?
Also, there are laws on which the country is dragging its feet which are said to be in need of strengthening. The Sexual Offences Act, the Offences Against the Person Act, the Domestic Violence Act, and the Child Care and Protection Act. Why are these inadequate? The Sexual Harassment Bill is being over-debated, as it seems to offend the sensibilities of those who feel men have a right to 'look a woman' by any means necessary, and this misguided right is under attack by the Bill.
Additionally, what has become of the debate to increase the age of consent from 16. Then we have the matter of women's reproductive rights that should be on the table in talking about gender-based violence. These are all connected and, having a strong, fully functioning legal framework with strong enabling elements, in keeping with our National Policy on Gender Equality, is the beginning of firmly demonstrating that this country means business when it comes to gender-based matters, including violence. These should also be the subject of a national education programme; not just a campaign, but a sustainable programme of education about our laws and the protections they offer.
Jamaica has been at this for too long. Our 2015 national report on the Beijing Platform for Action on empowering women outlines the country's progress with these issues since the 1995 declaration. We seem to have come some way in executing the 'softer' aspects of these plans. The committees were formed, the documents were written, some training was done, but what is it we lack to push forward to the 'harder' matters? The political will?
This report also clearly outlines challenges to us moving forward. One key one is gender-based violence. These matters are interconnected and a piecemeal approach will not do the job, as we are witnessing. Therefore, the passing of some laws and not others will not do; passing laws without the enabling elements will not do. While we look good on paper, and might have engaged in the softer, more palatable areas, the hard decisions need to be made as a matter of urgency.
Carolyn A E Graham, PhD, AFHEA, is a writer, artist and sociologist with expertise in maritime affairs. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or email@example.com.
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