JCC calls for defence, protection of women and girls
The Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) bemoans the increasing and persistent pattern of violence against women and girls, a recent example being the killing of young Khanice Jackson. There is indication that this situation is increasing and being worsened during the present pandemic, as shown in the United Nations Development Programme report on Latin American and the Caribbean countries of November 2020.
The council asserts that crime of all forms is reprehensible and demands the nation’s best efforts to find solutions. Gender-based violence including intimate partner violence, domestic violence and sexual violence and abuse are social anomalies in which the vast majority of victims are women and girls.
We have for a long time observed the negative and aggressive attitudes which have developed in our society towards women. It is believed that violence against women and girls has deep roots in the ways men and boys are socialised, leading to a general culture of disregard and disrespect towards them. Disrespect and disregard for women has become commonplace and sets the stage for aggression and hostility. In addition, the demeaning and objectifying conduct of many persons in the public sphere, including the proliferation of degrading images in our popular culture, have fostered attitudes which have festered for a long time in the psyche of many Jamaican males. We encourage our women and girls to reject these negative images which are portrayed of them, especially in the lyrics of many musical productions. It is critical that we assist our men and boys to develop sincere appreciation and demonstrate greater care and respect for our women and girls. We call on all men and boys, especially those who hold positions of power and influence, to denounce and report all forms of violence against women and girls and to support programmes that promote positive attitudes of care and protection.
DEVELOP A STRUCTURE OF EQUALITY
As leaders, we must develop structures of equality, equity and justice so that all citizens, including women and girls, will not suffer any disadvantage and predisposition to violence. We must empower and defend our women and girls from the rage and aggression which is often perpetrated against them. It is far too commonplace that their attempts to report and address violence which they have suffered are obstructed by systemic arrangements which deny them justice and fair treatment. The ease with which a blind eye is turned to violence in intimate and domestic settings, by the general public, is disturbing and inimical to the safety and well-being of all of our citizens, and in particular our women and girls. We call on our society to urgently address the ways in which women and girls may be provided with greater protection from physical, psychological and spiritual harm.
In addition to calling for change, the council intends to lead by example and will continue its engagements with programmes aimed at addressing this issue. We highlight, for example, the Thursdays in Black Campaign, which seeks to draw attention to efforts to rid our world of violence against women and girls. The council commends the work of several governmental and non-governmental agencies which have formulated and implemented programmes to address gender-based violence, injustice and unfair treatment of women and girls. We call on every denomination and local church to develop and implement programmes or ministries to deal specifically with the sensitisation of their members, especially males, to issues concerning women and girls, and the provision of protection, comfort and relief to the victims of violence and abuse.
We acknowledge that in many ways our religious traditions have not sufficiently affirmed the value of women. The gospels, however, are replete with references of the affirming and liberating ways in which Jesus treated women. Jesus valued the worth of women who choose to take their places of service beside the male followers, a privilege which he has said “will not be taken from [them]” (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus defended a powerless woman against a hostile hoard which was ready to inflict physical and psychological harm on her (John 8:2-12). The faith of a woman who insisted on care for her child was heralded and rewarded (Matt 15:28). Jesus gave attention to, affirmed the presence and worth of and showed love and mercy to women, countering the general ethos of his day and setting an example of how they ought to be treated. We call on all Jamaicans to follow the example of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the affirmation and protection of our women and girls.
- Rev Newton G.A. Dixon is the president of the Jamaica Council of Churches.