JIS News

Senator Desmond McKenzie(Government) has suggested that there is a need to control violence, in general, if Jamaica is to reduce the level of sexual violence against women and girls.
Senator McKenzie said that the international community has a very high perception of sexual violence in Jamaica and, while it was the second most common cause of injury to women in the society, most women were not reporting the crime because of their fear of violence, or reprisals.
“Five percent of all violent injuries recorded in our hospitals are caused by sexual assaults, but it is estimated that only 25 percent of sexual violence is reported by women. The hospitals report higher rates of sexual assaults than the police, which suggest that the victims are more reluctant to go to the police, than to go to the hospital,” he said.
Senator McKenzie said that the provisions of the proposed Sexual Offences Act would therefore be of little help to most women, if violence against them continues to discourage them from reporting sexual abuses to the police.
He was speaking as the debate on the Sexual Offences Bill dragged on in the Senate on Friday (June 26). The Bill seeks to bring under one umbrella various laws relating to rape, incest and other sexual offences. It also provides for the establishment of a Sex Offender Registry, which will maintain a list of sex offenders to be known as the Sex Offenders Register.
Senator McKenzie said that in 2004, 70 percent of sexual assaults reported in Jamaica, were recorded against girls, and 20 percent of adolescent girls, aged 13-14, had either experienced rape or attempted rape.
He added that 20 percent of 15-19 year old girls have been forced to have sex at that some stage of their lives. One-third of them were either enticed by money or physically forced into sex against their will, or offered protection from other men deemed dangerous.
Senator McKenzie also expressed concern about the number of women and children being murdered or raped, as gang reprisals.
“This is frightening, when we consider that over 30 percent of all homicides in Jamaica are based on reprisals, and that women are being increasingly targeted as informers,” he said.
He lamented that sexual violence is, however, not confined to gang warfare or violence-prone communities, but also occurs in the home. He said that over 80 percent of sexual assaults cases are committed by someone known, or close to the victim, usually a relative or friend.
“Based on the number of 15-19 year olds who have been forced to have sex, incest must be far more common than the reports to the police or the Child Development Agency suggest,” he stated.
Senator McKenzie also acknowledged the need for more to be done to address issues such as sexual harassment at the work place. He said he looked forward to the tabling of a Sexual Harassment Bill very soon in Parliament, as well as the Child Pornography Bill.
“At some stage we will also need to look at how sexual violence causes health problems (such as) HIV infections, and other sexually transmitted diseases, many of which are incurable, as well as unintended pregnancies, mental health problems and even depression,” Senator McKenzie said.
Senator McKenzie also urged Parliament to seek pass the six Crime Bill tabled by Prime Minister Bruce Golding, as soon as possible.
“The same commitment that we have to protect our women from sexual abuse, is the same … we have to protect our country from crime and violence. We see the passage of this Bill as urgent. We also see the passage of the six Crime Bills, which were tabled in Parliament last year by the Prime Minister, as equally important,” he said.
Also contributing to the debate was Government Senator, Hyacinth Bennett, who urged her colleagues to adopt a holistic approach in proceeding with the matter.
“I think it is very important that while we do everything to bring the sex offenders to justice, that their fundamental rights are protected,” she said.
She explained that some of these persons did not set out to become criminals. However, for reasons that, perhaps, psychologists can best explain, many of them end up using sex as a means to hurt others, or to address what they think are their own needs, much to the detriment of society as a whole, she said.
Opposition Senator, K.D. Knight, noted that in order for the Bill to achieve its objectives, there is need to have the necessary infrastructure in place within the police force, particularly the investigative process to support the provisions.
Other speakers included: Government Senators, Dr. Ronald Robinson and Tom Tavares-Finson, and Sandrea Falconer from the Opposition. The debate is scheduled to continue at the Senate’s next sitting.

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