JIS News

Stakeholders at the Bureau of Women’s Affairs-organized workshop on gender-based violence have called for a review of the legal system to provide for increased sanctions against offenders and to allow for DNA evidence to be admitted in sexual offences cases.
They also pointed to the need for greater enforcement of laws and a collective approach to problem solving, which would involve the church, the community and other stakeholders.
The workshop, which was held last week at the Hotel Versalles in May Pen, was designed to sensitise members of the public about the problem of violence against women, including murders, with 228 females killed between 2003 and 2004, representing a 61 per cent increase over the two-year period.
Jennifer Williams, Research Coordinator at the Bureau, said by increasing awareness of the problem, the aim was to “get persons in various parishes and communities to be involved in the solution towards gender-based violence.”
“We want to get the communities involved”, she told JIS News. “We want to bring the communities’ attention to the different perspectives as seen from the police, who will deal with the issue, from the courts, some of the cases that come in and also from the medical side,” she added.
She informed that community and church leaders, social workers, probation officers, representatives from government ministries and non-government agencies that interfaced with victims or potential victims, had been targeted in addition to the police, health and legal representatives.
Violence against women is defined as any act that results in or is likely to bring physical, sexual, or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivations of liberty, whether in public or private life.
According to Mrs. Williams, in most societies, gender-based violence was directed mainly against women because they were women, even though it was not limited to them.
She told JIS News that: “the Bureau recognizes that gender-based violence is a serious matter affecting our women and we realize that it can impede individuals, communities and in effect hinder national development”.
As part of the discussion, the workshop also looked at the matter of human trafficking especially as it relates to young women. The stakeholders suggested that government should regularize massage parlours, go-go clubs and employment agencies; set up policies to coerce communities to report cases of trafficking; equip a new arm of the police force to deal with trafficking and that churches and other social clubs should establish public education programmes.
They further called for penalties against employers engaged in trafficking; the monitoring of newspapers for advertisements targeted at young girls; setting up shelters and employment opportunities as short term relief for victims of trafficking; families should provide moral support for victims; and parents should inform their children about the dangers of trafficking.
The public education programme started in January, with workshops already held in Savanna-la-mar, Westmoreland; Port Maria, Annotto Bay; Enfield, St. Mary; Santa Cruz and Black River in St. Elizabeth; Mandeville, Manchester; and Buff Bay in Portland.