Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Rosalea Hamilton | Defying the odds

Published:Thursday | August 18, 2016 | 8:06 AM
Rosalea Hamilton

On August 13, Elaine Thompson joined Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce in winning the ultimate Olympic prize - a gold medal in the women's 100m. What an accomplishment! The University of Technology (UTech) is particularly proud that these phenomenal women, as well as the third Jamaican finalist in the women's 100m, Christania Williams, are part of our UTech family. Their extraordinary achievement, however, goes well beyond their tremendous athletic accomplishments. These golden girls as well as those whose athletic achievements are among the best in the world - Merlene Ottey, Veronica Campbell, Deon Hemmings and others - have defied the odds by rising above the crippling abuse of women and girls in Jamaica.

A discerning reader of the August 14, 2016 Sunday Gleaner reporting this awesome victory would not miss the following headings:

- Cruel cop! - Woman flees after 10 years of beating at the hands of her police boyfriend

- Hanging with a predator! - Paedophiles, abductors, thieves and social deviants target children online

- Teen pimps - Children recruiting their peers to have sex with adults

- Pimp's paradise - Men making money from female flesh with deadly fear

These headlines are troubling and highlight a problem which must be urgently addressed. Sexual abuse against girls is growing at an alarming rate, according to data posted on the Office of the Children Registry website.

Similar disturbing trends exist for physical and emotional abuse of girls. Self-reports and population-based surveys reveal that 17 per cent of 13- and 14-year-olds in Kingston had experienced rape or attempted rape, the majority by adult casual acquaintances or persons in positions of authority. Approximately 33 per cent of girls in this age group experience either verbal enticements to have sex or unwanted physical contact. Note that sexual assault investigation units in Jamaica have estimated that only 25 per cent of sexual violence is reported.

Since 2006, Amnesty International reported that violence against women in Jamaica had "taken a more sinister and criminal form, institutionalised in gang culture which uses women and children as part of [its] reprisal system". According to the 2015 Amnesty International Report: "Women and girls living in inner-city communities remain particularly exposed to gang violence. They are often victims of reprisal crimes, including sexual violence, for being perceived as having reported or actually reporting criminal activity to the police, or in relation to a personal or family vendetta."

 

WOMEN OR GIRLS PROBLEM

 

These forms of abuse create serious emotional or psychological damage for victims that are crippling. Similar abusive behaviour is sometimes passed on to the next generation in a perpetual cycle. Many victims have become mothers who are actively facilitating the abuse and human trafficking of their daughters. This is why violence against women has been called "the most pervasive yet least recognised human rights abuse in the world". It jeopardises women's lives, bodies, psychological integrity and freedom, thereby limiting the achievement of their full potential as human beings. The intergenerational impact means that the full potential of their own children is also jeopardised.

Rest assured, this is not just a women or girls problem. Men are directly affected by this problem. Not only are men the main perpetrators, but their daughters, mothers, wives, sisters, aunts, girlfriends and other significant women in their lives are directly affected by this problem, which in turn affect men in many ways. Men/boys also suffer silently at the hands of abusive women who have been themselves victims of abuse.

It is for this reason the Fi Wi Jamaica project, being executed by UTech, is actively engaged in public education about domestic and intimate partner violence. The project also seeks to empower women and girls through entrepreneurship and skills training in collaboration with the Social Development Commission, com-munity organisations and non-governmental organisations like the Institute of Law & Economics, the Avasant Foundation and the 51 Per Cent Coalition.

So, when viewed in the context of this crippling cycle of rising violence against women and girls in Jamaica, the achievements of our golden girls are simply remarkable! As we celebrate, let's reflect on how many more golden girls and boys we could have produced in the absence of the devastating abuse that so many of our children face daily.

- Rosalea Hamilton, PhD, is project director, Fi Wi Jamaica Project, UTech. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com