#Day7 of #16Days falls on World AIDS Day. According to UNAIDS Jamaica’s current strategy to combat HIV/AIDS is “Making Human Rights Real” but despite huge successes from the program–“Since 2004, with the introduction of antiretroviral treatment, AIDS-related deaths in Jamaica have dropped by 41% and mother-to-child transmission of HIV has fallen from 25% in 2004 to below 5% in 2011”–budget cuts from the government could hinder that progress. And despite being slightly out-of-date the Ministry of Health does advertise free HIV & Syphilis testing at mobile clinics and is working to empower women to be “smart women” and have condoms at hand.
The smart women of Jamaica are banding together in many ways. Jamaica Youth Theatre has crafted a two-minute video in the hopes of helping to Stop Violence Against Women to add to their repertoire of socially conscious flicks on everything from unintended pregnancy to sexual assault to HIV. Do Good Jamaica is a network of non-governmental and community based organizations (like Women’s Media Watch Jamaica and the Association of Women’s Organizations in Jamaica) that help in all kinds of ways.
In March Jamaica had the honor of hosting the second annual Caribbean Conference on Domestic Violence and Gender Equality. The conference looks like it was a fantastic learning and networking opportunity as it had clinical training for healthcare providers, training for activists using social media, a workshop on “Gender and human rights-based programming to address gender-based violence (GBV) and HIV in LGBT communities,” and discussions on the historical roots of gender-based violence in the Caribbean, disaster and violence against women, best practices in gender mainstreaming, the challenges of dealing with police officers who are abusive to their partners, the role of male engagement in ending gender-based violence, and much more.
Popular Jamaican dancehall artist Ishawna made headlines in October when she disclosed to the public that her well-known ex-fiancé had been physically abusive, and to the surprise of many the country rallied around her, empowering other men and women to speak out against domestic violence. The unfortunate level of violence in Jamaica is not limited to intimate partner violence but violence against children and other community violence is rampant as well. Jamaica’s domestic violence law can be found on the Ministry of Justice website but the Bureau of Women’s Affairs seems to be much more 21st Century as it “is mandated to mobilize the Government to address the problems that confront women, given the impact of patriarchy and sexism.”
One group fighting ferociously to update Jamaica’s laws regarding domestic and sexual violence is the 30-year-old Woman Incorporated. They also operate the country’s national Crisis Center Hotline at 929-2997 for survivors of domestic or sexual violence, and participate in advocacy and public awareness campaigns. This article explains how the laws surrounding rape within marriage have changed over the years, but at the time of publication marital rape is still not criminal in Jamaica. Other laws they are working to change include the definition of rape/sexual abuse of a child, as well as laws regarding parental rights when accusations of child abuse are at hand.
Women’s Resource and Outreach Center is another organization in Jamaica promoting gender equality and combating violence against women; one way they do this is by advocating for quotas through the 51% Coalition. They also organize trainings to empower women in leadership roles:
Under a programme funded by the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), WROC executed a training programme ‘Strengthening Women’s Leadership in Jamaica (SWLJ)’, which was designed to address concerns highlighted in a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funded gender research project that showed that little progress has been made in the last decade for women serving on boards and commissions in Jamaica. Training sessions were conducted with ninety three ladies for appointment to public and private sector boards and commissions as well as school boards. A database with the profiles of the 103 ladies trained was later developed and a printed publication was presented to key public and private sector organizations/leaders.
Though there aren’t a huge number of organizations or resources in Jamaica dedicated to ending gender-based violence, it looks like the ones who are there are doing great work. Let’s hope many more future leaders get a head start soon too!