Tue | Apr 7, 2020

Brutality streak intolerable - PM - Government to pilot new domestic violence bill

Published:Monday | February 10, 2020 | 12:20 AM
Prime minister and party leader Andrew Holness addressing the Jamaica Labour Party's Area Council Two meeting at the Portmore HEART Academy in St Catherine.
Prime minister and party leader Andrew Holness addressing the Jamaica Labour Party's Area Council Two meeting at the Portmore HEART Academy in St Catherine.

Romario Scott/Gleaner Writer

The Jamaican Government will soon pilot a new domestic violence bill in Parliament in response to bone-chilling episodes of intimate-partner violence across the country, Prime Minister Andrew Holness revealed yesterday.

Holness, who was addressing a Jamaica Labour Party Area Council Two meeting at the Portmore HEART Academy, made a strong appeal for an end to the killings, especially of women and children.

The prime minister neither stated how the new legislation would differ from the current Domestic Violence Act, nor did he provide a timeline for its tabling.

Condemning the “corrosive permissiveness of violence in our society”, he referenced the January 12 brutal murder of Suianne Easy by her enraged partner, Jamaica Defence Force Corporal Doran McKenzie, who killed himself with a bullet to the head shortly afterwards, as emblematic of the savagery that consumed the nation. That double slaying occurred in Portmore, where the prime minister was speaking.

“We have defined a man as being physically stronger than a woman. That is the power relationship, that is the power dynamics. So, in any form of conflict, the man will have to prove his strength over the woman by physically dominating her.

“This is not something we can tolerate. This is something that we must change in this society,” asserted Holness, pleading with party faithful to help break the cycle of violence.

Recounting a story of how a private-school principal ordered that a female student retaliate against a classroom bully who had targeted her during one of his brutish bouts, Holness charged that adults were responsible for perpetuating violence by validating with children.

“The principal of the school told the little girl to box him back! And that is how we as a society teach our children to resolve conflicts. ‘Box him back!’ and I am certain in this room, many of you would say that is the way to deal with it … ,” he said.

Holness also recounted the story of two boys who were fighting in a community designated as a zone of special operations.

The prime minister said that after soldiers had quelled the dispute and taken the boys to their respective homes, one of the mothers armed her son with a weapon and took him to the home of the boy with whom he had the fight.

“The police intervened, took home the children to their respective parents. Thought all was fine, only to discover that the brother of the boy who apparently lost the fight gave him a weapon, held him by the hand, took him to the house, called out the other child and told her child to stab him back,” Holness, the JLP leader, shared.

Murders have soared by nearly nine per cent in 2020, with 137 victims. Almost half of the police divisions are under states of emergency, but those crackdowns have not caused the overall homicide trajectory to shift markedly. Though murders in rural parishes have fallen by almost 12 per cent, the metro regions of Kingston, St Andrew and St Catherine have recorded a more than 27 per cent spike in killings.

Holness appeared to acknowledge that the macroeconomic improvements under his administration could not be touted as the be-all of the ruling party's achievements.

"As a political party, we can't always be talking about economy and bad road and 'Shower! 'Shower! Shower!'" the prime minister said.

"As a political organisation, we are tasked with improving the quality of life of all Jamaicans over all spheres of issues."