Currently, “pandemic” is the buzzword when describing how widespread a problem is. Usually, the word refers to an illness affecting multiple countries or continents. I believe violence should be on “the list” of illnesses affecting our globe negatively. Today I will shine a bright light on violence against women and girls as we are amidst the 16 days of activism to eliminate gender-based violence. The sixteen days ranged from November 25th to December 10th.
The Bureau of Gender Affairs, a sub-agency of the Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment, and Sport (MCGES), hosted a seminar to celebrate the International Day of Eliminating Violence Against Women and Girls (IDEVAW). The event’s purpose was to join voices calling for ending violence against women and celebrating the lives of the victims. The theme for this year’s campaign is ‘Gender Based Violence is Everybody’s Business: End GBV’.
Patrons from all walks of life attended the seminar, which included a wonderful panel of experts. Each panelist represented a step in getting help as a victim of violence against women and girls. Ms Janet Blackwood, Crown Counsel and Representing Laws & Legislation at MCGES, covered the Domestic Violence Act, the Protection Order, the Occupation Order, and the Restraining order. An example of the great information shared by Ms Blackwood was that the occupation order allows the victim and children to remain at home. The perpetrator of the crime will not be able to enter the home until the order is rescinded.
Victims of Gender Based Violence in Jamaica should call the Toll-Free Help Line 888-No Abuse. That is 888-662-2873. Your call for help is free. Call this number if you know of someone who is a victim of Gender Based Violence. Persons can call this number free of charge from any network.
In her speech during an event hosted by the Bureau of Gender Affairs, Minister Olivia Grange pointed out that “a study done by CAPRI, 2022 highlighted that Jamaica has the second-highest rate of femicide (intentional homicide of females) and one of the world’s highest rates of intimate partner violence. The study noted that while the causes of GBV are complex, cultural attitudes contribute significantly to the scale and nature of violence against women and girls and the reactions and responses to it.”
As stated on the Jamaica Information Service website, “Data from the Women’s Health Survey indicates that 1 in every 4 Jamaican women has been physically abused by a partner at some point in her life. Similarly, 1 in every 3 Jamaican women has been a victim of sexual violence.” These statistics must change. Each one of us has a duty to see to it. It won’t change with the work of one organization or a group of organizations with the same focus. It must be a holistic approach from our entire nation in order to make the needed impact.
In showing her disdain for the existence of GBV in our society, Minster Grange stated, “Violence against women and girls is not normal; everyone deserves to live a life free from violence and abuse. This must be combated vigorously.”
Unity is Power
We must commit to ending GBV in our communities as we move forward. Correspondingly, the Jamaican government implemented many interventions, but we must change our mindset. Here are some things we can do immediately to combat GBV.
- Do not allow abusive, discriminatory or sexist language around you. Always interrupt that type of language.
- Question the portrayal of women and girls. Publicly criticize images that portray women and girls as weak or inferior in any way.
- Stop all forms of physical violence you see. At the least, report it to the authorities.
- Educate yourself and your community about gender-based violence. Make sure that everyone in your community knows the helpline’s phone number.
- Work with community leaders and influencers to reject rape culture wherever you live, work, or do business.
- Normalize conversations about gender-based violence. Create safe spaces for anyone to report or find out more about violence against women
- Never blame the victim of gender-based violence.
Now that you have a starting list of action you can take to help eliminate violence against women, add to the list and actively make a differnce.