THE EDITOR, Sir:
It has been almost a week now since the disturbing news emerged that three female students were held at gunpoint and raped by an intruder at a prominent St Catherine school. This most vicious act shows the extent to which violence against females is still very much a cause for concern in the Jamaican society.
Despite being a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination against Women, Jamaica continues to experience high levels of violence against our women and girls. Clearly, our Government has fallen short in terms of putting in place mechanism and systems to protect our women folk. The society is shocked every so often by the level of violence, especially sexually assault, meted out to the female sex in the society.
However, in this latest despicable incident, not much has been said publicly condemning this crime. We all should be disappointed and disgusted at the lack of public outcry and condemnation by civil society. Where are the women's rights groups in the society? Our girls and females are being brutally attacked. Where is the voice of the Church on this matter? What has happened to the voice of those state agencies with direct responsibility for the protection and welfare of our children? Why have you been so silent?
IMMUNE TO VIOLENCE
Perhaps, as a society, we have become immune to the high levels of violence which now characterise much of the society. It is very much disheartening that our children can no longer enjoy their childhood or feel safe in school. One would have thought that children would be safe in our educational institutions. Clearly, this is not the situation. Too many of our schools are not properly fenced, which allows for outsiders to gain access to the grounds of these institutions.
Added to that, a significant number of our schools lack adequate security and this requires urgent attention from all stakeholders involved in the teaching and learning experience, namely, the school boards and the Ministry of Education.
The safety and protection of our students should be paramount. After all, the children are the future of this country. It is reasonable to think that any parent or guardian would expect that his/her child would be safe at school. For this horrific incident to occur during school hours clearly demonstrates that parents cannot be reassured regarding the safety of their children at school.
Society, for the most part, has lost its sense of social consciousness and social justice. Last year, we were outraged by the brutal rape of five females, including an eight-year-old girl, in St James. This year, it is business as usual. We are indeed a people with very short-term memories! Where is the public solidarity with the victims and their families?
We need to identify some workable solutions, given our propensity to diagnose what is wrong with the Jamaican society. What is happening to the sex register that we heard talk about last year after the rape of the five females? The Government needs to speedily institute a sex register to ensure that sexual predators can be monitored and give account of their whereabouts. We have created a culture of misogyny, and now, we are reaping the effects. Pregnant women are being murdered. Girls are being raped, and child abuse is very much rampant. It is very likely that this perpetrator will not be caught, given the police's track record.
It's very likely these three girls will not have any justice. The time is now for the Government to establish a DNA database. This would be an additional mechanism to assist the police in solving crimes. Of course, the proper checks and balances to safeguard the rights of the citizenry must accompany such legislation.
We need to return to the Jamaican of old, where women and children were protected from abuse and exploitation. We need to awaken to our collective responsibility and look out for each other once again. We need to remember that it takes a village to raise a child.