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JAMAICA | Regional concern over Gender based Violence

  • Written by wiredja.com news team
  • Published in Lifestyle
MONTEGO BAY,  April 18, 2021 - As the subject of domestic violence last week dominated the Jamaican news cycle following the circulation of a video on social media in which a man is seen physically assaulting a woman and out of which a Jamaican legislator is grappling  with assault allegations, the scourge of domestic violence is gaining more focus across the Caribbean. 

George wright 460The Jamaica police said they were unable to pursue the domestic abuse case involving central Westmoreland MP George Wright  and his alleged live in consort, businesswoman Tannisha Singh, as neither party is prepared to give a statement to the police and neither are they able to get witnesses to participate in the investigation.

According to the police, following an exhaustive investigation and interview process that conformed with law enforcement best practices and involved both parties, it is now clear that the investigation into the alleged incident has come to an end at this time.

This, as a result of the unwillingness of the parties involved and potential witnesses to participate in the investigation, as well as the poor quality of the video alleged to capture the incident.

Last week, at an online webinae on domestic violence, a Trinidad and Tobago independent senator and psychiatrist Dr Varma Deyalsingh said he once had to rescue a victim of domestic violence but his act of kindness almost landed him in jail.

He said had it not been for the pleading of a social worker he would have been in trouble with the law as the woman he rescued returned to her abuser and told the police she had been kidnapped by him, the psychiatrist.

He said what compels him as a legislator to pass laws for the police to remove women, who are reluctant to leave on their own, because of one phobia or another from their abusive homes, is the inability to save these women from themselves, 

Dr Varma Deyalsingh 460Trinidad and Tobago independent senator and psychiatrist Dr Varma DeyalsinghDeyalsingh’s comment came  during a webinar on family violence in Suriname,Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean, hosted by the Ansa McAl Psychological Research Centre and chaired by Prof Ambika Krishnakumar of the Syracuse University, USA. 

It also featured Dr Inger van der Kooij of the Netherlands Institute for Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, jurist Maya Manohar of Institute for Graduate Studies and Research and Anton de Kom University of Suriname.

Deyalsingh recalled the "kidnapping incident" took place several years ago while working as a junior doctor at a health centre.

“Two weeks before, a patient’s intoxicated husband came to the clinic filled with anger saying he was looking for her and would deal with her."

He said the woman had visited the clinic before nursing wounds from abuse.

Before her husband, who could get to her, Deyalsingh said he and a nurse rescued the woman and her children and took them to a safe house.

Deyalsingh said the woman, who subsequently moved back with her husband, reported that he (Deyalsingh) took her against her will. She was later burnt and disfigured by her abuser.

“I always wondered why women do not leave an abusive situation. We have safe houses, a police unit dedicated to domestic violence, media reports on the dangers. While we save some, others are incapable of leaving. They have psychological chains which bind them to the abuser and this could cloud their judgement.”

Deyalsingh explained that the Mental Health Act provides the basis to involuntarily apprehend people who are mentally ill.

“My take is we have to develop a legal system where we can go into a home, take certain individuals who may be clouded in their judgement, and rescue them and bring them into treatment.

“If we can use the Mental Health Act or put apprehension guidelines in our Domestic Violence Act, we can save some lives."

“Many times, the abused makes a police complaint and then goes back. We can’t fault them as they may be helpless,” he said.

There are several contributing psychological factors such as, Stockholm syndrome, trauma bonding theory, learned helplessness, distorted thoughts or damaged self-worth, he said.

GBV 350He said on average, “victims experience 50 incidences of abuse before getting help. They live with domestic abuse for two to three years and medium victims for three years before getting help.”

Deyalsingh said the cost of treatment and counselling is underestimated as it does not take private treatment into account. The cost of processing a homicide is already high and with the onslaught of covid19 in a shrinking economy where there are more domestic violence cases, the cost will escalate.

“We need to provide a treatment that begins to challenge a woman’s automatic thoughts about herself and her relationship in an attempt to weaken the traumatic bond, or to challenge the beliefs behind why a woman wants to forgive her partner might be a useful next step in developing more effective support in helping women make the difficult decision to end it.”

In Jamaica, the results of the first national survey on gender-based violence shows a high prevalence rate of 27.8 per cent, with more than 1 in every 4 women in Jamaica experiencing intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

The survey revealed important trends, such as, higher prevalence of physical and sexual violence experienced by women in urban areas than rural areas (6.2 per cent vs 5.4 per cent); and women who were 18 years or younger when they entered their first union (living together or married to a man), were twice as likely to experience severe violence as women who were older when they entered into a residential union with a man.

Global data show that violence against women and girls permeates every society, class, race, geographical area, age group and the Jamaica figures show there is no significant difference over the lifetime experiences of women living in urban areas and those in the rural areas. 

Nevertheless, the JWHS survey shows that current prevalence (i.e. experiences of physical and/or sexual violence in the last 12 months) is higher in urban areas (6.2 vs 5.4%). Lifetime prevalence of intimate partner physical violence (IPV) refers to the percentage of women who report being hit, slapped, kicked, beaten, burnt, threatened or injured with a weapon, by a male partner at least once in their lifetime. 

GBV 400All age groups have experienced intimate partner physical violence (IPPV), almost one-third (31%) of women aged 25-29 years have experienced IPPV, making them the group with the highest prevalence ever in their lifetime. Women in that age group also have the highest current prevalence, with 12.2 per cent having experienced IPPV in the last year. This rate is twice the national rate of current IPPV (estimated at 5.8%).

Severe violence was experienced by 18.2 per cent (nearly 1 in 5) of women. While there were no differences in the severity of violence based on location, education level, or employment status, women who were 18 years or younger when they entered their first union (living together or married to a man), were twice as likely to experience severe violence as women who were older when they entered into a residential union with a man. 

More than one-third of women (34.2 %) who were 18 years or younger suffered severe violence, compared to 17.2 per cent of those who entered a union at age 19 years or older. The data also shows that women who have been pregnant are also more likely to be subjected to severe violence than women who have never been pregnant.

Jamaica is party to seven of the nine core international human rights instruments, and has also passed local legislation to complement the rights and protections offered by these international conventions. In addition to the introduction of this explicit constitutional protection, other legislative additions and amendments in the last decade have improved the legal protection of women and girls in areas ranging from property rights to sexual victimisation.

Nonetheless, Gender Based Violence remains widespread, and women and girls continue to suffer a high rate of sexual victimisation. Indeed, the Bureau of Gender Affairs notes that the high incidence of gender-based violence and violence against women remains a major obstacle in the achievement of gender equality, the empowerment of women, and national development.

Last modified onSaturday, 24 April 2021 08:31
  • Countries: CARICOM