Feminising the battle front
Glenda Simms, Contributor
In the April 22 edition of The Gleaner, newly appointed Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington called on the public to join with the security forces to aid in the fight against crime in the Jamaican society. He went beyond the call and listed 16 strategies that he will be implementing in order to rid the society of the criminals in our midst.
I carefully reviewed these and came to the conclusion that they are more of the same couched within the traditional militaristic blueprint that has guided police action in most countries in the global village. Having made that observation, I am quite committed to heed the commissioner's call because I believe he is a committed and highly disciplined public servant who is capable of making a real difference.
On an individual level, I am obligated to do what I do best in an effort to influence a wide cross-section of the women of Jamaica to hone new gender-sensitive strategies and new approaches to enter the battle front and fight against those who are hell bent on destroying this piece of rock for which our ancestors shed their blood, wiped their tears and endured the most inhumane forms of oppression.
It is tragic to think about the levels of murders and other criminal activities that keep a large majority of Jamaican women cowering in fear in the zinc-fenced shacks of inner cities, ghettos, rural hillsides, in the wonderfully appointed gated mansions in the suburbs and hills, and in every community they now call home.
This is the lived reality of our contemporary situation, and in the spirit of solidarity with my friend and professional colleague Dr Heather Little-White, each one of us must be convinced that the criminal must not allow us to forget that it is our human right to live free of fear in this country.
It is in this frame of mind that we must give Commissioner Ellington the support to carry out his strategies while the women in civil society organise to reaffirm the unique strengths our womanhood has afforded us. At the same time, we must be courageous enough to honestly apprehend and change all the aspects of our behaviours that have contributed to the criminal potential of our sons, husbands, brothers and all the male of the specie who are predominantly the ones who pull the triggers of the guns, day after day and night after night as they snuff out the lives of mostly young men.
While we hope the recently prescribed approaches to crime fighting will be successful, women must not retreat from the fight to eradicate violence against women and girls. In his recent Budget presentation, the prime minister raised his concern about the extremely high levels of criminality in the Jamaican society. In his brief reference to this cancer which is sucking the life blood out of our economic, social and political systems, the prime minister listed some of the main areas of criminality which need urgent attention. Among these, he cited violence against women and children.
It is perhaps this direct emphasis on gender-based violence that motivated Senator Sandrea Falconer to call for a reduction in 'domestic violence'.
It is instructive to note that the well-meaning senator left herself wide open to the rather abrupt and uncharitable response to her concerns by the minister of national security, Dwight Nelson, who, according to the April 24 edition of The Gleaner, dismissed the concerns raised by his female colleague in the following retort, "Tell that to The Gleaner so that they can put it on their front page too."As should be expected, the April 26 edition of The Gleaner reported that of the total 515 murders up to April 25, only 14 were "domestic".
Perhaps these statistics were meant to debunk Senator Falconer's concerns and to reinforce the idea that women are always raising non-issues.
Senator Falconer's concerns were valid. Her mistake was in the use of the term 'domestic violence', She should have taken her cue from the prime minister and used the descriptor "violence against women and children." In fact, the international community, led by Kofi Annan, former secretary general of the United Nations, moved beyond the generic and non-specific term 'domestic violence' and, like Senator K.D. Knight, they called "a spade a spade".
The women of the society know that all the incidence of rape, incest, carnal abuse spousal battering, emotional abuse, and the related neglect of children are manifestations of the continuing wave of violence inflicted on the women and girls of the specie.
Take a stance
Raw data on murders and other statistics quoted in popular media do not capture the epidemic of gender-based violence. It is, therefore, important for women to hone their understanding of these issues and do everything possible to take a stance against all those who violate our dignity and rob us of our human rights.
If the women in civil society work on these specific issues they would understand why they must turn in the rapists, carnal abusers woman beaters and the murderers they oftentimes shield.
Indeed, we shield these dog-hearted criminals because they are our sons, boyfriends, husbands, fathers breadwinners, pimps and slave drivers.
The time has come for every woman to ask herself a simple question: Am I sleeping with the enemy? If the answer is yes, then it is our responsibility to put on our battle fatigues and help the commissioner do the kind of job that will remove our fear, anger and boiling rage at the state of our nation.
Glenda Simms is a consultant on gender issues. Feedback may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org