Thu | Feb 27, 2020

Vicious war against bodies of girls, women

Published:Saturday | September 1, 2018 | 12:00 AM


Once more in August, in the same country, in the same community, the relentless and ongoing war against the bodies of girls and women has become more visible. In August 2017, two teenage girls were shot, one fatally, in the community of Arnett Gardens, and there were rumours that the vicious attack was as a result of the girls refusing the sexual advances of men in the community. This year, a 14-year-old girl was raped, killed, and her body burnt in that same community. These are just two reports from the same area in 12 months.

Once more, there is public outcry and condemnation.

So Jamaica, it is time to call it for what it is. There is a vicious war being waged against the bodies of women and girls in Jamaica. And it is clear that where there are illegal and unjust power structures called garrisons, the war is especially brutal.

But the reason the war continues unabated is that it is a war happening inside and outside the garrisons, uptown and downtown, in town and country. It is a war whose support is entrenched in the minds and culture of too many of us. This war is still what makes some in our Senate reluctant to pass legislation that recognises marital rape without reservation. This war manifests itself in the fact that the courts' reduced sentencing guidelines have been very beneficial to convicted perpetrators of gender-based violence - rape, carnal abuse, murder!

This war is why our own national statistics indicate that consistently one in every five women in Jamaica has reported being a victim of forced sex, i.e., rape, to those conducting the nation's sexual and reproductive health surveys.

And this is why despite all the 'official' outcry in 2017, it was the mother of the two girls who were shot who had to flee the community like a criminal, while the community 'defenders' and the power structures that govern them remain.

What will we do - as individual citizens, communities, families, politicians, faith-based organisations, civil society - to stop this inhuman, cannibalistic war machinery devouring the lives of our women and girls?