Wed | Feb 19, 2020

Gabriela Morris | We’re tired of the abuse

Published:Thursday | January 16, 2020 | 12:18 AMGabriela Morris/Guest Columnist
Nevia Sinclair

Nevia Sinclair is Jamaica’s most recent victim of domestic abuse. Her story has raised alarm and outrage over the pervasiveness of intimate-partner violence in Jamaica. In 2018, it was reported by STATIN that one in four Jamaican women have experienced physical abuse at the hands of their male partners. Even more shocking was the declaration by the United Nations in 2017 that Jamaica has the world’s second-highest femicide rate, with 11 out of every 100,000 women being killed. It is a staggering reality, but many women across the country have expressed that they can no longer find haven in their schools, churches or homes.

In the wake of the tragedy, I say we must do more to safeguard our women. As a society we must consider gender-based violence a public matter as it requires rigid social intervention to make meaningful progress. A pivotal component of any intervention for gender-based violence must include resocialisation. We must emphasise a need for men to adopt healthy attitudes towards women and relinquish problematic notions such as a need for dominance in romantic relationships. The Women’s Health survey conducted in 2016 revealed that 31 per cent of respondents believed that wives were obligated to have sex with their husband when asked, unless sick or menstruating. This finding is consistent with the reality, as many men see women as property or commodities for pleasure, while there are still women who also believe that it is the job of a wife to please her husband – whenever he desires. These archaic notions embolden some men to abuse their partners. We must shatter this idea and teach men and boys to respect a woman’s right to choose despite the nature of their relationship. Marriage does not imply ownership; transactional relationships should not imply ownership.

Men must begin to understand that women must be afforded the right to negotiate the start and ending of a relationship, birth control use as well as other decisions that arise in romantic relationships.

Violent Tactics NEVER ACCEPTABLE

Additionally, men must understand that using violent tactics in a relationship is never acceptable. In the Jamaican context, intergenerational violence is a very real phenomenon, and it is hypothesised that men who witness domestic abuse as children are more likely to become perpetrators themselves. Thus, intensive social education is needed even at the primary level to teach conflict resolution skills that will shape their responses to conflict in adulthood.

Finally, perpetrators must be held responsible and survivors must be safeguarded. This requires stringent enforcement of the Domestic Violence Act and support from the police. Survivors of domestic abuse must feel confident that they can report abuse without being ostracised or dismissed.

As good citizens, we must also seek to support women affected by abuse, instead of engaging in a destructive blame game that enables perpetrators and discourages other women from reporting. Instead, seek to dispel ignorance and display empathy. Friends and family members must also be vigilant for the signs of abuse and provide assistance to women living in dysfunctional relationships. We must not let this outrage abate; we cannot allow one more woman to become a statistic or one more child to be left without a mother. Many women are waiting to be rescued and we all must play a part in eradicating this scourge from society. Domestic abuse is a social ill that must be eradicated as we move towards vision 2030. We must champion the cause of safeguarding our women and girls as our nation depends on it. Thus, I urge women experiencing domestic abuse to report and seek support. Women in abusive relationships may seek help through the Bureau of Gender Affairs (BGA) at 876-754-8577-8 or 876-929-2997 or 9296660.

Gabriela Morris is a youth leader and vice-president of the Guild of Students. Send feedback to comments@gleanerjm.com