Letter of the Day | Take the fight to gender-based violence
THE EDITOR, Sir:
According to USAID, gender-based violence cuts across ethnicity, race, class, religion, education level, and international borders. An estimated one in three women worldwide has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Disturbingly, a significant number of violence against women goes unreported and the perpetrators are not brought to justice.
The Caribbean has one the highest incidences of rape. According to the UN Woman narrative on gender-based violence in the Caribbean, The Bahamas has the highest incident of rape per capita in the Caribbean, at an average of 133 per 100,000, followed by St Vincent and the Grenadines 112, Jamaica at 51, Dominica 34, Barbados 25, and Trinidad and Tobago 18.
Over the years, Jamaica has been witnessing an alarmingly trend of murder-suicide. According to University of the West Indies lecturer in political psychology, Dr Christopher Charles, murder-suicide must be viewed in the context of domestic violence. As part of his findings on his research on murder-suicide in the security forces, Charles highlighted the fact that 86 per cent of the perpetrators of murder-suicide were males and that the targets were overwhelmingly females.
Sadly, the discourse on gender-based violence tends to ignore the social and economic cost associated with hospitalisations, time off from work and counselling, which the State and survivors must bear.
In situations where children are exposed to seeing one parent being abused by the other, we are yet to fully quantify the psychological damage that such incidents can and does have on those children. Such children can become withdrawn, perform poorly in school, depressed, violent, angry, and fearful and can later in life become abusers. This is an area which more research is needed in order to completely understand the impact of gender-based violence on the society. There is a tendency to exclude the fact that men are also victims of gender-based violence.
We must come to the realisation that some men are vulnerable and also suffer from gender-based violence from their spouses or significant others. Of course, in a society which values hypermasculinity, such men rarely are afforded the chance to voice their concerns, mainly because of fear of being ridiculed and having their manhood questioned.
Gender-based violence is not confined to the domain of sexual and or physical. No one should feel a sense a shame and suffer in silence. Unfortunately, we live in a world and a society with a high tolerance for lawlessness,
The society needs to increase the awareness of the scope of gender-based violence and its impact on the target and the nation through pointed public education campaigns. There is also an urgent need to engage more men and boys to join the effort in eliminating violence against women. The education system also has an integral role to play in eradicating such violence by infusing gender-based violence into the National Standards Curriculum.
We also need to ensure that our National Gender Policy for Gender Equality is gender-neutral in order to address discrimination against all genders. The Government, through Parliament, should legislate and ensure the enforcement of laws to prevent violence against women. We need to ensure that gender-sensitivity training becomes compulsory for the Jamaica Constabulary Force, as well as the Jamaica Defence Force, so as to better equip officers to deal with such forms of violence.