'Break the silence, stop the violence' - Protesters urge end to domestic abuse
The nexus between domestic violence and the transmission of HIV was the main concern of some 200 Jamaicans who participated in a walk against female violence in Half-Way Tree, St Andrew, yesterday.
The initiative was dubbed a silent protest, but protesters chanted "Break the silence! Stop the violence!" as they blew whistles, waved placards, and slowed traffic near sections of the Half-Way Tree Transport Centre.
Patrick Lalor, policy and advocacy officer for Jamaica AIDS Support for Life (JASL), said the initiative was aimed at deterring perpetrators of female violence as well as empowering women who find themselves in particularly vulnerable situations.
"In our world, we have seen many women who have contracted HIV as a result of being in violent relationships where they are unable to negotiate condom use. They don't determine the terms of sex, when and where, and they don't even determine who they have sex with," said Lalor, one of the protest organisers.
"So the women end up in relationships where men may bring their friends and say they need to have sex with everybody. This increases their risk of all sorts of sexually transmitted illnesses," he continued, noting that the march was in recognition of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
In addition to JASL, the Nurses', Association of Jamaica (NAJ) and the United Nations Trust Fund were also integral in the organisation of the march, said Lalor.
"We are saying that it is time to break the silence. Too many women are living in violent relationships and they don't speak up about it," he continued, noting that many victims are living in fear of their spouses, and it is the onus of every Jamaican to help them.
Don't know they are being abused
In the meantime, Robyn Miller, project and communications coordinator at JASL, said that many female victims don't even understand that they are being abused.
"You will ask a client, 'Are you experiencing violence?' and they will probably tell you no, but if you ask how their spouse responds when he asks her to cook the dinner or something else, you will hear, 'Oh, him just give me a box. Him just slap me'," she said.
"We are saying to women, you need to be able to identify when you are experiencing violence. A spouse who asks you not to talk to your family member or friends, he is isolating you, and that is a form of violence,' she said.