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As women in Parliament, we are dedicated to leadership in our country and committed to the promotion of a safer, gentler and more peaceful Jamaica, in which every person can live free from fear and in which mutual respect and love are practised among our people. We in this Joint Statement continue to denounce domestic violence in all its forms and regardless of who the perpetrators are or may be.

As members of the highest legislative body in the land, we have always committed to ensure that the rights of every individual in Jamaica are protected. We also continue to conduct the business of our country respectful of the laws that govern us. As such, we seek to guarantee life, well-being and happiness of every individual. In this vein, violence, in particular gender-based violence, must at all times be denounced as a threat to life, well-being and happiness of our people. We therefore have never condoned and will never condone violence in any form, but in particular gender based violence.

Together we feel the urge at this time to come together in solidarity with our sisters, women, who are in the line of fire from the lethal forces of domestic violence, most often meted out to them by men who may be intimate partners, co-workers, family members or simply community members.

We are aware that domestic violence is not relegated to the vicious physical assault often on display and spread across social media platforms, horrible as they are.

Domestic violence also includes verbal, psychological, cultural and social abuse. It is often said that the tongue is a more destructive instrument of abuse than even some of the physical onslaught on women, which is what tends to gain national attention.

Gender-based violence, especially against our women, has been a scourge on our society over many years. Gender-based violence is often perpetuated by gender stereotypes that the society promotes, such as men being seen as more manly if they respond with violence to issues and problems they experience or simply use violence
(through words and actions) to define who they are.

Also, there is the stereotype that undermines men and boys who display gentler, more courteous behaviours. Unfortunately, some of our own women also promote these stereotypes. As such, there is need for self-criticism and evaluation in every area of our society if we are going to dispel this scourge on our nation.

It is for this reason that we continue to support a national conversation with actions to deal with the reality of gender-based violence as stated in the National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate Gender-based Violence. We call for all hands on deck – homes, political parties/organisations, churches, media, schools, service clubs, youth organisations, the cultural sector, etc.

We appeal to the media and faith-based organisations for the promotion of positive values in relation to definition of maleness in so far as that definition affects relationships with our women. We must eliminate the toxic masculinity that often expresses itself in violence against women.

We express solidarity with our sisters who find themselves in these violent circumstances. We beg that you be not ashamed but seek support from any source you trust. For too long, some of these women are silent and blame themselves for the negative behaviours of some of our men. Too often, we unwittingly support their toxic masculinity.

As mothers, grandmothers, aunts, church sisters, etc. we must commit to change in how we grow our boys and girls so that we can put an end to this scourge on our nation. We must use every avenue, every relevant government institution and instrument, including by reinforcement through education and culture programmes and the involvement in all sectors and individuals that have influence over the construction of the thought processes of our people.

Ultimately, it is our hope that as we all take responsibility for how we see each other as a people, we may espouse the need to be our sisters’ keepers even as we seek to promote the well-being and happiness of all our people.

It is about speaking up for positive and harmonious interactions among our people. It is about admitting to and organising against the negative stereotypes perpetuated both in regard to men and boys who are often presented as aggressive and violent and women and girls seen as weaker, submissive, always ready to accept whatever is
meted out to them by our men. This conversation must happen but it must also be supported by action. We all bear responsibility to change our reality.

In relation to matters alluded to last week, I can report that the Member of Parliament for Central Westmoreland is proceeding on Leave of Absence from this Parliament.

Further, I have been advised by the Leader of the House that the said Member of Parliament for Central  Westmoreland will no longer sit in the JLP Government Caucus and as such will not be under the control of the Government’s whip.

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