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The government of Jamaica is undertaking several initiatives to afford greater protection for women and girls, who are victims of gender-based violence.
Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, Olivia Grange, speaking at a November 28 stakeholders’ workshop on gender-based violence at the Terra Nova Hotel, said that these efforts “include new and amended legislation, such as the Domestic Violence Act, the Incest Punishment Act and the Offences against the Person Act, which have all been revised to more adequately address the contemporary needs of our women and girls.”
Noting that the Incest Punishment Act and the section of the Offences Against the Person Act that relate to rape and other areas of sexual violence enjoyed wide discussion at the Joint Select Committee of Parliament throughout the year, she added that a proposal to combine all issues relating to sexual abuse under one sexual offences bill, was a unanimous decision from both sides of the House.
She said that a Sexual Harassment policy has also been developed and will pave the way for the drafting of legislation to protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace and other institutions. In addition, she informed that the Optional Protocol from the United Nations, a Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination, will be ratified “shortly”.
“This protocol will provide greater recourse for women through a communication and enquiry procedure in cases where there may be serious violation of their rights,” she informed.
In the meantime, the recently completed National Gender Policy, which was handed over to the Minister at the meeting, will employ a multi-sectoral approach to address issues such as legislation and human rights, labour, economic empowerment for vulnerable women, gender-based violence, education and culture, reproductive rights and HIV, some male concerns and gender mainstreaming.
While noting that she is aware of the challenges being encountered by various women’s organizations, Miss Grange urged both government and non-governmental women activist groups “to continue to work diligently to improve the cause and lot of women, who experience discrimination and violence,” further assuring that “women affairs and gender matters will be at the top of my list.”
She also commended the strategy to include men as partners in the struggle to end violence against women, being propagated under the theme for the stakeholders’ workshop: ‘Women and Men Speak Out! End Violence against Women’.
“Implicit in the theme is that men’s contribution to this effort is vital and that no programme, no plan, no policy against gender-based violence can be as effective without their participation in the process,” she added.
Miss Grange appealed for all citizens and stakeholders to unite for the cause. “Let us join hands and heart and let us work together to make our cities, make our rural communities, make all of Jamaica a safe place for our women and girls,” she urged.