Wed | Feb 19, 2020

We must hold men accountable

Published:Thursday | January 16, 2020 | 12:19 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

Jamaican women have been suffering for years at the hands of men who claim ownership of their bodies. Unfortunately, we continue to make excuses for abusers while blaming women for the violence they face. We tell women to cover up, to be polite, not to anger men, and to be more careful on the street.

We provide a plethora of ways to not get raped or hit or murdered. Little girls grow up learning where not to walk if it’s dark out, who not to smile too much with, and what kind of clothes will get them raped. At some point, we must stop and consider holding men accountable.

The murder-suicide phenomenon is one we know well. It always comes with think-pieces on men’s mental health, the dangers of transactional sex, and how women can be more careful in their relationships. Those conversations have done very little to protect women against gender-based violence. They, instead, impede progress by putting blame and responsibility on victims rather than on perpetrators.

Male privilege

The truth is that men feel entitled to women. Male privilege teaches men to completely disregard women’s autonomy. Something as simple as the right to say no or to walk away is baffling for Jamaican men. We see it every day in how quickly street harassment gets physically violent when women express disinterest, or in how a man will resort to stabbing his ex-girlfriend to death because she dared to leave him. We cannot solve the issue of gender-based violence by telling women not to provoke men. We must look at the culture we continue to endorse, do away with the parts of it that dictate power dynamics between men and women, and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

Tajna-Lee Shields

tajnalee@gmail.com