Krysta Anderson, Gleaner Writer
Murder, death, and despair have stalked Jamaican women over the years. But 2012 stands out not only because there has been a 15 per cent spike, but the killings have been more brutal.
Figures released by the Jamaica Constabulary Force reveal that 27 more women were killed in 2012 compared to 2011.
To help us understand the underpinnings of the country's murderous state as it relates to women, Flair spoke with head of University of the West Indies' Institute for Gender Studies, Dr Leith Dunn, noted counselling psychologist; Joan Pinkney, and veteran journalist, playwright and cultural activist, Dr Barbara Gloudon.
Pinkney - No respect for women
"Put aside the religious view that the devil is currently present among the living, now more than ever, the structure of the Jamaican society has decayed, and the country has surpassed the respect it once had for women and children," said Pinkney. She also stated that jealousy has increased, as men believe if they cannot have the woman, no one else will, and if the woman is leaving and the man is aware that there is someone else, his ego is crushed and he will consequently respond aggressively, and then say he is sorry.
Gloudon - Women are led astray
Dr Gloudon blames these figures on mistakes women make. She declares some women have been careless with their lives, placing themselves in knowingly difficult situations and endangering their lives. Women associate themselves with dangerous options, letting men lead them astray, getting involved with drug and/or gun dealers, sometimes burying themselves in the drug and/or gun trade, killing themselves by their connection with criminals. They sometimes dress too provocatively, making them prey to these male voyeurs and predators of our society. She advised that women should take care of themselves and not fall into the trap of the wicked, going into a taxi filled with only men, walking on a lonely road in the dark night.
She also pointed to domestic violence as a contributing factor, noting that the "woman continues to believe it is okay for a man to abuse her or her children due to monetary support and maintenance she is receiving for both herself and the children".
She stressed that women should not blame the economic conditions for their choices, but should rather stand up for themselves because they are stronger than they think. She admitted, however, that despite the slight increase in 2012, a new generation of women is rising up and in recent times women are getting smarter about the decisions they make. She affirmed, "Women are waking up to the fact that they can protect themselves," and urged that discussion must continue to change the situation.
Dunn - Socialisation, politics, economy to be blamed
Leith Dunn shared the view that society is somewhat to be blamed for the violence being committed against women because as Jamaicans, we learn about violence based on the way in which we are socialised. For boys, "They may witness violence as an everyday event and learn to accept violence as a norm. Boys may grow up to think of men beating women as normal and are more likely to be perpetrators of violence when they become adults." According to her, "Girls who grow up in violent homes and communities may learn to think of this as normal behaviour and become more tolerant of violence in their adult life. They are more likely to become victims of intimate partner violence and end up dead." She is also of the opinion that economic and political conditions, as well as inadequate reports and support systems contribute significantly to the high murder rate of females in Jamaica.
She said that the economic crisis may exacerbate women's vulnerable economic position. "Women receive unequal wages for work of equal value, despite the law which forbids this. The concentration of women in low-skilled occupations also makes them vulnerable to poverty and violence. They become dependent on men and this dependency makes them vulnerable to domestic violence."
She continued by saying that "women are underrepresented at the highest levels of decision-making which means that issues affecting women and girls, such as gender- based violence, are likely to receive less attention in Parliament etc. While females are 51 per cent of the population, there are only 13 per cent of women in Parliament although there is a female prime minister".
Another contributing factor to the high rate of murders of women and girls, she said is the culture of silence and tolerance of gender-based violence in popular music and behaviour.