Sun | Mar 7, 2021

Violence against women an urgent national problem

Published:Wednesday | January 27, 2021 | 4:13 AM

One in four Jamaican women has been a victim of gender-based violence, having been physically abused by a male partner, while an equal number of women have been sexually abused by men who are not their intimate partners.

“This is an urgent national problem,” says Professor Opal Palmer Adisa. “The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to exacerbate this problem of violence against women and girls,” the director at the Institute for Gender & Development Studies at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, has acknowledged.

For this reason, the institute, on January 1, joined forces with the United Nations Development Programme on the ‘Legislative Reform to Eliminate Violence Against Women and Girls’, which aims at “developing and implementing relevant legislation and policies” as part of an overall campaign to end violence against women and girls.

The project forms part of Pillar One of the European Union-United Nations (EU-UN) Spotlight Initiative project which has six pillars, and the Jamaica Spotlight Country Project is being led by research fellow at the Institute for Gender & Development Studies, Dr Imani Tafari-Ama, and managed by her.

Dr Tafari-Ama said the project will be working to create broad partnerships with civil society, government, private sector and the media to raise national awareness aimed at eliminating personal and social violence in the society.

“Our aim is to build a social movement comprising women, men, girls, boys and transgender people, as champions and agents of change at the national, subnational and community levels. The overall vision of the Spotlight Initiative in Jamaica is that women and girls realise their full potential in a violence-free gender-responsive and inclusive way,” Tafari-Ama said.

The Jamaica Spotlight Country Project will focus on reaching and including women and girls who are isolated and most vulnerable to gender-based violence and harmful practices.

Project activities will include making recommendations to the Joint Select Committee of Parliament responsible for amending the Sexual Harassment Bill; the Domestic Violence Act; the Sexual Offences Act; the Offences Against the Person Act, and the Child Care and Protection Act; the training of volunteers from targeted community service organisations to enable them to actively participate in a national public education and advocacy campaign, and other initiatives aimed at raising national awareness about violence against women and girls and family violence.

The Institute for Gender and Development Studies is an interdisciplinary institute of The UWI, with a presence on all UWI campuses. The EU-UN Spotlight Initiative is a global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls. The initiative places attention on violence against women and girls and makes it the centre of efforts to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment, in line with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The six pillars of the Spotlight Initiative are:

• Promoting laws and policies to prevent violence.

• Promoting laws and policies to end discrimination and address impunity.

• Strengthening national government and regional institutions.

• Promoting gender-equitable social norms attitudes and behaviours.

• Making high-quality essential services for survivors of violence available.

• Improving the quality, accuracy, and availability of data on violence against women and girls and promoting strong and empowered civil society and autonomous women’s movements.

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com