“I’m exhausted. Being a woman in this country is exhausting. I came home tonight to hear that the body of a young girl, who went to primary school with my brother, was found in a barrel. Processing that information took more than a few minutes. Processing that yet another woman lost her life, and trying to come to grips with how viciously her life was taken, and how terrifying her last few moments on earth must have been, fatigues me.” – Ms. Roseway, UWI Student.
For decades, if not centuries, we have seen so many women being oppressed for excelling, for their skin color, race, lifestyle, sexual orientation, and for the mere fact of being female. Making a better life for themselves and the people they love should not result in them being mistreated or misinterpreted. However, the society that we live in makes being female or any other minority feel like a curse that we have been eternally dealt.
“Violence against women happens too often…I am sure everyone has had a friend or an acquaintance who has been a victim of intimate personal violence and it has to stop.” The Minister Sandrea Falconer at the Violence Against Women in Latin America and the Caribbean at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston launch.
As far back in history as one can see, violence against women has gone unreported due to the sensitivity of the topic, societal norms, stigma and taboos, which plagued a nation. There was a correlation between violence against women and women being seen as property and a gender role of subservience. The inequality of gender roles between men and women were also shocking as males assumed dominant roles while women were subordinates, which prevented female empowerment and advancement. In present times, more women are coming forward and breaking the taboo as they are more willing to speak up about the issue in hope of finding a solution.
“The problem is that talking about these things is almost taboo in Jamaica. We have been trying for years to not only ignore the elephant in the room, but also sweep it under the carpet to appease the church, the prudish little ladies who fan themselves at Sunday services, and the egos of men which are so easily bruised when the wrongdoing of any man is mentioned. We need these topics to be broached.” – Ms. Roseway, UWI Student
Violence against women, also known as gender-based violence, is defined by the Council of Europe in its treaty series 210 article, Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, as a violation of Human Rights and any form of discrimination against women and all acts of gender-based violence that results in physical, sexual, psychological, or economic harm or suffering to women is a violation of Human Rights. Violence against women can be categorized: rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, prenatal sex selection, mob violence, honor killings, female genital mutilation, marriage production, forced marriage, sexual slavery, forced abortion, trafficking of women, forced prostitution and the list goes on. Any form of threat, deprivation of liberty, coercion, and overall breech of human rights, whether publicly or privately, are also deemed violent acts.
Many women and children have been murdered viciously in Jamaica from the latter part of last year going into this year… These people are out here to show support to the grieving families as well as say to the rest of Jamaica that we must take stock of ourselves and bring a halt to this gruesome situation.” – Government senator and former mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Charles Sinclair.
The Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organisation fact sheet reports in 2013 that research was conducted on more than 180 women in Bolivia, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Columbia, Ecuador, Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, Peru and Jamaica. Of those women interviewed, between 17 and 53 percent of women reported some sort of physical or sexual violence against them by a partner they were in a relationship with. In Jamaica, between the ages of 15-44, more than 8,000 women were interviewed under the same violence against women theme and approximately 20 percent revealed that they experienced sexual or physical abuse at some point in their lives. Thirty-one percent of those women who experienced violence in some way also reported to have sought institutional help as 37 percent of them admitted to never having told anyone.
“I wear black for our women and children. Not because I think my dress code will solve our problems, but because I believe this statement will ignite an important conversation. I wear black as my personal commitment to not let this conversation die, as so many others before it, but to play my part, no matter how small, in taking it from dialogue to meaningful and sustainable action…. We are powerful beyond measure; it’s time we step into our purpose, own our strength and make this time count or live with the consequences of our silence.” Tishan Lee, head of marketing at Jamaica Public Service Company told Loop News.
Stop Violence Against Women, in light of International Women’s Day, is the worldwide campaign which launched in 2004 in hope of prevention of domestic, physical and sexual violence against women, a serious breach of human rights. Stop Violence Against Women focuses on ending violence through the targeting of governments for them to prosecute individuals and modify laws to enable female protection.
“Alas, this is Jamaica- land of wood, water and rape culture. How do we inject funds into a problem that most people are aware of, but don’t take seriously? Yes, we are aware that women are being raped, but what else do we know? Do we know what behaviours lead to these incidents of rape? Do we know how to assist these women? Do all of these women know where to find help?” – Ms. Roseway, UWI Student.
The official website of the campaign is a project of the Advocates for Human Rights, which promotes their mission of women human rights protection through research, advocacy and change across the world.
“It is noticeably easier to mobilize and rally forces for causes such as breast cancer, lung cancer, etc. Why? Nobody denies that cancer exists. Nobody downplays the severity of cancer. No one has ever looked at a breast cancer survivor and asked “What did you do to get cancer?” or pose any other question that implies that this person is somehow guilty for his/her situation…. There’s no need to bring up statistics to prove the urgency of the situation or to gain sympathy, empathy or solidarity…. Conversely, a lot of people don’t take women’s issues that seriously. Herein lies the difference.”- Ms. Roseway, UWI student.
It is often seen, directly or indirectly, that women are forced to take the back seat in decisions and are unable to contribute wholeheartedly in social, political and economic aspects of society without having a fair shot like their male counterparts. Although society has become more lenient in promoting gender equality and allowing females to reign even in male dominant environments, women nonetheless have to be exceptional and far greater than males in a particular field to be given the “time of day”; even then, they will forever be having to prove themselves that they are good enough. There will always be those persons who are reluctant to accept that women are to be viewed as an equal to men and can be more than a nurturer for the kids and housewife for the family. Some women as well have succumbed to the ideology that they should bear children and care for their husband and not chart a course professionally for themselves.
“We need all girls’ high schools to talk about uncomfortable issues with our girls. We need our young men to be talking about how the little things they do and the little behaviors that they condone around their friends or the jokes they make contribute to rape culture. We need people to know that there is more to being guilty than actually holding someone down and forcing ourselves upon them.”
Efforts to remedy this issue of violence towards women need to be implemented to at least lessen the statistics which are in favor of such a phenomena. Actions have to support the words that the government, organizations and campaigns put out in hope for a change. There are resources readily accessible to women through organizations whose mission is to protect the rights and health of women. These organizations include Woman Inc., The Bureau of Women’s Affairs, Women’s Centre of Jamaica Foundation, Women’s Media Watch, Victim Support Unit (Ministry of Justice), Women’s Resource and Outreach Centre and The Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA). However, persons who are not aware of these places and people who are aware, do not have the willingness to utilize these places due to lack of encouragement.
“There are more and more women who are aware of the society in which we live, and who make it their duty to defend the women who have been mistreated as well as take on the world in very untraditional careers and lifestyles. There are female engineers, mathematicians and astronauts among other jobs, which were once male dominated, but as the world shifts and we become more socially aware and accepting of equality, we will understand where we are coming from and have a greater appreciation for our journey. It doesn’t happen overnight, but we can see some positive strides since the present generation and those of the future are seemingly more open to change and willing to integrate their beliefs and contributions into a society that we all can be proud of.” – Ms. Roseway, UWI Student.
By Alexandra Daley
By Alexandra Daley