Fri | Oct 19, 2018

Letter of the Day: Government must pass laws to protect women

Published:Thursday | March 8, 2018 | 12:00 AM

THE EDITOR, Sir:

Jamaica has come a long way in recognising the contributions of women to its development. Indeed, women have occupied some of the highest offices in this land, not the least of which was Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller in 2006. It is a well-known fact, too, that many successful businesses in Jamaica are headed by women.

Today, March 8, Jamaica joins the world and the United Nations to commemorate International Women's Day. 'Press for Progress', one of the themes this year, aptly provides an opportunity to celebrate our progress towards recognition of women's rights and gender equality.

Jamaica has made legally binding commitments to several gender-related international instruments, such as the Beijing Platform for Action, International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention C087, C098 and C189 and the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). But Jamaica has much work to do to protect and preserve the basic rights of its women and create an enabling environment where every woman realises her full potential.

The connection between violence against women, poverty and HIV are well documented.

In 2016, 24 women were killed in Jamaica, up from 15 the previous year.

Jamaica AIDS Support for Life, as a key service provider to women who experience rape, sexual assault and those who are HIV-positive, encounter women who have been left visually impaired, suffered deformities and left incapacitated as a result of the actions of their violent partners.

If we, as a country, fail to address poverty, particularly among women and children, we only perpetuate the cycle of poverty, inequality, sexual abuse and domestic violence.

 

Urgent revision

 

The authorities must act now and send a strong message to those who continue to harm our women and girls that it will not be business as usual. We call for the urgent revision and passing of the Sexual Offences Act and other related Acts; namely, the Domestic Violence Act, Offences Against the Person Act, and the Child Care and Protection Act. We call for an urgent revision of the Employment (Equal Pay for Men and Women) Act, which in its current state is ineffective in addressing wage disparity. We also call for the urgent passing of the Sexual Harassment Bill to not only address workplace sexual discrimination, but also to shun normalising the sexualising of our women and girls.

This International Women's Day, we press for laws that allow for social inclusion and punish those who continue to harm our women. We press for progress for opportunities that create independence for our women - disabled or otherwise. We press for progress to end all forms of violence against our women if we seriously intend to put a dent in the nearly 30,000 cases of HIV/AIDS on the island.

Jamaica AIDS Support for Life