Fri | Aug 18, 2017

Courts trivialise violence against girls, women

Published:Wednesday | April 12, 2017 | 4:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

The Tambourine Army is shocked and alarmed at recent developments as it relates to two cases involving the murder of a pregnant woman and the rape of a 14-year-old schoolgirl. We notice that in each case, two men - a policeman and a teacher - representing two institutions of power and authority in our society, were allowed to walk free.

In the case involving the shooting death of a pregnant Kayann Lamont, our outrage stems from the fact that a woman, obviously in an advanced stage of pregnancy, was targeted by the police for an 'offence' as trivial as the use of indecent language. She was targeted for cursing a 'bad word' and in the process, her life was taken from her. Her unborn baby was also killed and her children were left without their mother and caregiver. The man who killed her walked free.

We are also outraged by the decision of a judge to give the teacher who raped his student a suspended sentence, which reinforces the 'just a little sex' cultural norm that trivialises the victimisation of young girls. The judge made it clear that the teacher's loss of a job was of much greater importance than the sexual exploitation of a 14-year-old who must now suffer in silence, and will perhaps never know that what her teacher did was wrong, and that he should have been punished.

 

NOT EQUIPPED FOR JUSTICE

 

The atmosphere of impunity around matters of gender-based violence and sexual violence is spoken about daily in Jamaica, and the Tambourine Army is convinced that the Jamaican court system is not equipped with the resources and personnel to become a justice system for victims and survivors.

It is time for our judges, lawyers, the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of National Security and Ministry of Education and Youth to demonstrate that they care about justice for survivors and justice for our women and girls. We cannot continue to operate in a system that is unkind to our women and girls.

We need to hold state actors more accountable. And we need to ensure that we create a safe and just society for our children and their children.

The Tambourine Army will be monitoring the media to document what we believe is the reckless handling of sexual violence and gender-based violence cases by state actors, to demonstrate to the Government that it needs to assertively address the brokenness of a system that perpetuates violence against women and girls and sexual violence.

Our judges and officers of the law need sensitisation training around understanding rape culture, sexual abuse, sexual grooming, gender-based violence and how the system that they control has been complicit in victimising and trivialising violence against our women and girls.

NADEEN SPENCE

LATOYA NUGENT

Co-founders, Tambourine Army