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STATEMENT TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
By the Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport
The Honourable Olivia Grange, CD, MP
Tuesday, 26 November 2019
Mr Speaker, yesterday Jamaica joined the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
It is a necessary commemoration because violence is still a major factor of life for too many women.
We now know from the results of the Women’s Health Survey:
- That one in every four women in Jamaica has been either slapped, beaten with fists, pushed, kicked, attacked with a weapon or threatened with a weapon by her male partner.
- That a quarter of women in Jamaica have been sexually abused by men who are not their intimate partners.
- That the majority of men who sexually abuse women were ‘friends’ or acquaintances.
- That one out of every five women reported being sexually abused before reaching 18 years old and the person who did it was a family member or friend.
It is a sad reality that at this very moment, a woman and a girl and a family and a community in our country are experiencing the horrific effects and consequences of gender-based violence.
In commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women:
we put special focus on the victims;
- we remind them that we have mechanisms in place to help them leave their abusive situations and rebuild their lives;
- we recommit as individuals and as a country to take action to end the violence;
- and we serve notice to men who continue to abuse women that enough is enough and we are coming for them.
We empathise and we feel upset when heartless, callous, horrific and brutal attacks are committed against women and girls everywhere. However, we can help every woman who is suffering and help to prevent it from happening again.
The theme for this year’s commemoration is ‘Stand Up! Talk Up! Gender-Based Violence is not a Private Matter’ and it is an invitation to all Jamaicans to join the movement to end the violence against our women.
As the Minister, I get the calls from women across the country who are being abused and want a way out.
Only recently, I got a call from a woman in rural Jamaica. It was one of the most heartbreaking stories of domestic abuse you could ever imagine. She had been willing to tough it out for the sake of her children while hoping that he would change. But as the years passed, the abuse continued — each time it was more severe.
When she called me, she told me it was so severe that she thought she was going to die.
Mr Speaker, she reached out and we were able to send help to her in the dead of night. We have relocated her and her children to a place where they are safe and are thriving. The children are doing well at their new school; she is getting ready to relaunch her career; and the violence and despair that they knew has been replaced with peace and hope.
That woman and her children represent one of several whom we have dealt with in the last year. We have moved several women and children out of violent situations and are helping them to rebuild their lives.
We have been able to do it Mr Speaker even while still building out our response mechanism to victims of gender-based violence.
You will recall that the government has embarked on a programme to establish national shelters for victims. We have purchased one shelter — and are currently making it fit and ready for women and their children. We have identified two other locations and the process to acquire them is in train.
But, Mr Speaker, I have to admit that the process is moving a lot slower than I want it to; and much too slow for the victims who need the shelters like yesterday. It is urgent for them, and I continue to push to get them established because we know that many women stay in abusive relationships because they have nowhere to go.
The establishment of shelters is only part of our response in providing protection to the victims. We also have to prevent the abuse from happening and dealing effectively with the perpetrators. Mr Speaker, the recent Joint Select Committee appointed to review the Sexual Offences Act, the Offences Against the Person Act, the Domestic Violence Act and the Child Care and Protection Act has made several recommendations in this regard. I look forward to the debates and to the speedy implementation of the measures.
Mr Speaker, I say ‘speedy’ because this is urgent. Women across the country are looking to every single one of us in this Honourable House for protection; and I know that we will not let them down.
We may disagree on many things in this House, but I know we all — on both sides — want to eliminate violence against women. Mr Speaker, we can end the violence. Together we will end the violence.
We need every man, every woman, every boy and every girl to join this mission to end gender-based violence.
We continue our public education efforts through the Bureau of Gender Affairs. We are implementing the ‘Stand Up, Talk Up’ Information Session series, which will be done in all the parishes across Jamaica.
The first information session was held in the parish of St. Mary and over two hundred (200) participants were sensitised on gender-based violence issues. Additionally, the Bureau of Gender Affairs partnered with the St. Mary Community Safety and Security Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force for their domino tournament, where sensitisation sessions were conducted. More than 170 people were sensitised on gender-based violence issues.
Additionally, the Bureau of Gender Affairs is also raising awareness through public service announcements which are currently in circulation on television, radio and online.
Mr Speaker, at the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women Public Forum in 2018, I highlighted persons living with disabilities as a vulnerable group within our society, that requires increased attention regarding gender-based violence and I made the promise that moving forward we would include this vulnerable group in our programmes, initiatives, policies and legislations.
I will launch two important initiatives that are geared specifically towards victims of GBV who have disabilities on Friday at our Public Forum.
Mr Speaker, I just want to appeal to every member of our society: One in four women is enduring horrific abuse at this very moment. That means that a woman, somewhere — someone you know — needs you. She needs you to be her voice. So if you know or suspect something, please stand up and talk up.
Let’s end violence against women.
Thank you, Mr Speaker.