Nedburn Thaffe, Gleaner Writer
A group of sixth-form students at St Andrew High School for Girls is suggesting that the Jamaican society has failed its women.
The students said women were living in fear, and argued that sometimes when women are accused of condoning certain behaviour by their male relatives, like washing the bloody clothes after these men have committed a crime, it may well be out of fear.
The students, who were part of a Gleaner-Island Grill Youth Editors' Forum last Wednesday, were asked to debate the topic: 'Women are failing Jamaica.' They were to propose a solution for that problem. The students, however, described the notion as silly while rearranging the moot to be: 'Jamaica is failing its women!'
They called for the nation to rescue those women who they believe are held captive by men because of crippling financial status and lack of information on where to get help.
Shamoy Brown, while pointing out there were many social programmes that women don't know about, said: "They need to be assisted. When (people) talk about women washing the bloody clothes, and so on, I believe if they knew they had somewhere to go, some safe haven to get some help", many would not be in the situation.
Brown added: "The State needs to make these women aware that there are places they can go to; they need to make them aware of the social programmes that are there to assist them."
Ashlie Barrett pointed to the alarming number of rapes committed against women since the start of the year as one example that "Jamaica is failing our women".
"I want to point out that our women in Jamaica; some of us basically are living in fear. When I go out on the road, I walk in fear of somebody grabbing me or trying to kidnap me. It's really depressing to know that's what our society has come to," Barrett said.
Coordinator for public education and legal reform at Women's Inc, Joyce Hewett, while agreeing that women are living in fear, took a more cautious approach on the notion that the Jamaican society has failed its women.
"I would agree that the situation has a lot of women living in fear but to say that it is society that has failed them I cannot agree. Society has a role to play but it is multifaceted in terms of the problem and the solution," Hewett said.
"It takes enforcement of the law and an awful lot of public education; it takes everybody in terms of bringing about a change and I definitely feel that there is a need for change. We must collectively find the answer."
In the meantime, sixth-former Kerri-Anne Bell pointed fingers at dancehall music and its subculture as one factor that has contributed to the denigrating of women by society.
"Dancehall music is influencing our men. Dancehall music and how it speaks of male and female relationships - it doesn't speak of true love, it doesn't speak of women in an uplifting light. It seems to be somewhat encouraging our men to hurt us, (it) is encouraging our men to rape us, it is encouraging our men to get in abusive relationships," Bell said.
"Most of these songs are talking about aggressive sexual activities and aggressive relationships … this is a subculture. And why is it that we cannot change this subculture?"