In Conversation with Women’s March Kingston

The following interview with Natalee Stack, the Chapter Ambassador at Women’s March Kingston, gives us an insight into the climate of violence faced by women in Jamaica.

For the past decade, Jamaica has seen an increase in crimes against women and girls, where the UN’s first national survey reported more than 1 in every 4 women experience intimate partner violence in their lifetime. The nature of the crimes committed against Jamaican women has become barbaric. Women’s March Kingston is calling on women across Jamaica to get involved and appeal to the Jamaican Parliament to pass the Violence Against Women’s Act in order to break the culture of violence and culture of silence in their communities.

How is the climate about Violence Against Women in Jamaica? Has there been a recent surge in violence against women? If yes, what is the cause?

Yes, there has been a recent upsurge. Actually, it’s been gradually and steadily increasing over a decade. When the new administration took office in March 2016, I reached out the prime minister’s wife and asked her to please do something. She acknowledged that we had a problem and promised to do all that she can. Unfortunately, nothing happened. The cases are mostly domestic violence related and others involve abduction, rape, and murder of minor girls. Returning residents and tourists have also fallen victim.

What are the laws that protect women in Jamaica?

There are laws against sexual offences and domestic violence, however, I do not believe that these laws are enforced as they should. As a result, the crimes are underreported. There’s little provision for DV prevention or an escape for someone trying to leave an abusive spouse. The laws were up for review at the end of the previous administration’s term. They were not passed. This is what the laws are before a review.

How is the society’s outlook on gender-based violence?

We have various organizations against gender-based violence. I think the problem is that the government has not made it a priority to address GBV comprehensively and legislatively. Men are sometimes not arrested for assaulting women. Some are not caught for killing women. These are some of the most recent cases of violence against women in Jamaica that have either made international headline or outraged social media users in the Jamaican community.

What are the efforts or organizations and movements to help fight this?

Sadly, the efforts are slow and/or fruitless. Again, we have seen more cases in recent times and more barbaric nature to these crimes against women and girls. In order to be effective, I believe we need the government to understand the magnitude and seriousness of what is happening and respond accordingly. If Women March Global can help us get the attention of our government that would be great. Our Prime Minister, Minister of health and Minister of Gender Affairs should be treat this matter more seriously.

At Women’s March Kingston we are working to raise social awareness of what is happening to our women and girls, increase legislative action by government, do re-socialization of boys/men with girls/women and vice versa, create more chapters and women’s group in communities across Jamaica and encourage government to source battered women initiative, raise age of consent to 18, source prevention and education on gender based-abuse.

Why is this important? And what are the statistics?

This is important because gender-based violence has become the norm in Jamaica. The longer we wait the more difficult the problem becomes to correct. Twenty or so years ago we did not see women being killed like we do today. Women in Jamaica have become fearful and in a constant state of panic whenever a woman or girl goes missing. The government must do more now, to help eliminate gender-based violence.

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Tenzin Kyisarh is the Communications Manager for Women’s March Global.

Maya Hendler is an Intern at Women’s March Global.