Letter of the Day |We need to protect our women
THE EDITOR, Madam:
The act of a group of women ganging up against another woman to metaphorically tear her down or literally ‘beat her to a frazzle’ while “others” watch and do nothing is an age-old one that continues to plague us. Evidently, we operate in an environment that does very little to prevent violence against women and continue to perpetuate the posture of the slave master, where women are ‘lashed’ and treated as second-class citizens, even by other women who also face a similar plight.
Sadly, what those women did to Kaylan is the physical manifestation of how women have been taught, whether directly or indirectly, to treat other women whom they deem to be a threat to them, even when they are not. ‘Threat’ here can mean any type of disruption of their ‘status’ in any way, shape or form. As the story is told, the women who carried out the severe beating on Kaylan did not like the way she looked at them. It is hard to imagine that a look would warrant such a violent response, but this is, in fact, the competitive and animalistic nature of some women when they perceive there to be a disruption to their status. This is what women learned very early, and the systems put in place by society perpetuate our ill-treatment, with very little consequence.
For example, The Gleaner recently carried a story that highlighted the plight of a woman who was turned away from the police station, because she went to report physical spousal abuse against her during the curfew hours. From my perspective, there had to have been something embedded in this policeman’s psyche that would have allowed him to operate against the JCF’s mission,‘to serve, protect and reassure with courtesy, integrity and respect for the rights of all’. I am willing to bet that this policeman would have lived the reality that our society continues to treat women as second-class citizens, and that the minimal consequence would have had very little impact on him.
Even though Jamaica is a part of the agreement to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, we continue to operate on the premise that some goals are of greater significance than others. While the signed agreement intended for the SDGs to be undertaken simultaneously, SDGs 5 and 10 (gender equality and reduced inequalities) are treated like the unwanted stepchildren. Thus, if women continue to be treated in such a way that their protection, inclusion and utilisation are disregarded, the economy will continue to fail. Obviously, we cannot adopt a tunnel vision the physical infrastructure and treat with scant regard the social fabric. The result of that will be what it has always been – underdevelopment.
For as many discussions as there have been in mainstream media about rebuilding our physical infrastructure, as well as the many debates that have ensued about the Government’s decision regarding the Dry Harbour Mountains, there should be as much uproar about improving the ways in which we continue to treat with gender issues that continue to erode society’s social infrastructure. Accordingly, Kaylan’s fight (to live) should not be in vain, as what happened to her represents what has been wrong with our country and the systems that have been put in place to protect its human resources, specifically women. Instead of offering the right assistance, the system does not do enough, or sometimes turns a blind eye. Additionally, for anyone thinking this beating is an anomaly – not true! Women continue to take ‘severe beatings’ in many forms in the workplace, in their uptown homes, in the classroom, in politics and in many other private and public spaces.
To address this, SDGs 5 and 10 need to be more than just buzzwords; they should be incorporated into every aspect of development – not just in theory, but in actual practice. Only when this is done will everyone understand that there is value in utilising the contributions of women in their many and varying roles (educators, caretakers, community development, etc). Maybe instead of standing by and watching as women destroy each other – thereby robbing the country of its human resources – everyone can play a role in improving the world we live in.
STACEY A. PALMER