Letter of the Day | Don’t crucify St Thomas woman
THE EDITOR, Sir:
The Women's Resource and Outreach Centre has seen the now-infamous video, widely circulated on social media, of a mother beating her girl child with a machete. There has been widespread, harsh criticism in Jamaica of this incident.
This event will be remembered either as the momentary sensationalisation of an unhealthy culture of child abuse and the economic and social poverty that lies at its root, or it can become a point of resolution for action to transform the experiences of the majority of women, men and children in our society.
The abuse of children, and of this girl child as seen in the video, is part and parcel of the neglect that we see in the treatment of women, the disabled and the elderly. We see this neglect in the poverty and squalor in which too many Jamaicans live.
We need to start a deeper conversation about the issues that led this mother to clearly lose control of herself and to resort to this method of punishment. She can be heard on the video exclaiming, "Mi tyad a unnuh ! ... Mi tyad a unnu! ... Mi talk to yuh." She seems to be at her wits' end; this is the place where most parents may find themselves when they engage in corporal punishment, crossing the line into child abuse.
The Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions (JSLC) 2015 shows that while poverty decreased in the urban areas, it increased for the second year in a row in rural areas. The survey also showed that female-headed households were, on average, poorer than male-headed households - and this gap widened in 2015. The JSLC also showed that poor households generally had more children.
The St Thomas mother of five in the video could well be counted among the most highly stressed members of the society. Where is her support system? Where are the fathers of her children? What did those who witnessed the incident almost a year ago do to support mother and daughter, and help them both out of this cycle of intergenerational abuse?
Our first instinct as a country should not be to judge her harshly or pass scathing remarks, but to ask what is the State doing, in the context of increasing poverty, violence and abuse, to secure the human rights and dignity of all citizens?
Counselling, psychosocial support and training on appropriate parenting skills are vital, but must be accompanied by expanding opportunities and choices for sustainable livelihoods and dignified living by women, their children and families.
At the core, there must be access to ongoing parenting support services, social welfare and counselling services available through all classes of the society. As things stand, the country's leaders are not providing this kind of support.
Project Coordinator, WROC