Goal 3: Safety
– Adolescent girls are free from violence and exploitation and are supported by enforced laws, strong and adequately resourced child protection systems and their communities.
As I observe the tapestry of female existence in various cultures and communities, one thing seems to be a prevalent chronic issue: gender-based violence. It seems most appropriate that during the season of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (November 25-December 10) that something be said about domestic violence.
I needn’t do a poll to see how many have been affected by gender-based violence (whether personally or vicariously) in our country. It has become common place in our society. Our daily traverse to our place of education or employ is riddled with cat-calls, comments on our form/figure and detailed ‘lyrics’ of how and how hard they would ‘love’ us. Try to vehemently deny their advances, and suffer the consequence of being publicly castigated by men and women.
Yes women castigate other women for being offended when being solicited by other men. We blame each other for being attacked by men and usually are passive when such injustices occur as we were never defended when it affected us.
Additionally, a woman may be threatened with physical harm if she refutes the advances of a man. You must be wondering why I have put special focus on the verbal advances of men toward women. This is not violence! Surely a women cannot suffer any harm by a man just wanting to compliment her beauty. I posit that you’re wrong.
There is a psychological harm that accompanies these cat-calls and solicitations. This causes a female to question her dress and feel nervous whenever a man hangs too closely to her. Adversely, some women believe that this is the only way in which a man can display his interest thus they go to great lengths to ensure that they are noticed.
This use of verb age to solicit female attention may be classified under law as an Assault. An assault may be defined as ‘The act of putting another person in reasonable fear or apprehension of an immediate battery by means of an act amounting to an attempt or threat to commit a battery, amounts to an actionable assault.’
This essentially means that verbal solicitation that then espouses or threatens abuse should a woman refuse him may be a criminal offence (or an actionable tort). Our laws in Jamaica support this as do laws in some other legal jurisdictions.
One may feel that this now solves the problem of gender-based violence; we have belled the cat! Charge the men with assault if they try to impute violence upon another (specifically women). Sadly we would be grossly mistaken. There is still it’s darker relative. The Father of gender-based violence: domestic abuse.
Inflicted by all strata’s and classes of society, whether he be preacher or footballer. Whether he be called by ‘Rice’ or any other name, in almost every culture and nation, domestic violence exists.
I would like to say that the men that resort to this barbaric means of ‘discipline’ and ‘control are of a sub-human class rarely acknowledged or non-existent. However, regardless of education or background, domestic abuse is very prevalent in all areas.
Why does this prevail? How can we allow something this horrendous to occur? Through silence and misplaced restraint. Many of us believe that we would be invading one’s personal life and it’s not our place to judge. Many women confide in fellow women, and what do these women do? Remain silent.
Many persons who suffer through domestic violence are fearful about coming forward as they don’t want to be ostracized from their families and communities. The popular line used by their abusers: ‘Who would believe you?’ may flash into their mind. They lose their voice. They lose their ability to escape. Many of us have experienced domestic abuse whether it be personally or vicariously. The pain is unending and never leaves you. It sticks to the bone. Seeps into the marrow.
What goals and targets should we use to end gender-based violence? The targets set forward by the ‘Girl Declaration’ set the tone of what our society should aim to achieve in the near future:
- Prevent and eliminate all forms of violence against girls.
- Ensure all girls have access to a“girl-friendly space.”
III. Ensure all states have national and sub-national mechanisms to identify, refer and report sexual violence against adolescent girls.
- Stop trafficking and exploitation of girls by passing and enforcing laws and policies that hold perpetratorsnot victims accountable.
Our entire society man, woman, boy and girl should have knowledge on the effects of gender-based violence. Attacking one gender destroys the entire society. Whenever we are faced with incidents of gender-based violence, whether personally or vicariously, bear in mind: I am not my sister’s keeper, I am my sister.
Editor-in-Chief, Mona Law Precedent
Publications Chair, Mona Law Society
Girl Engagement Advisory Board Member
Second Year Law Student, Faculty of Law UWI, Mona
© CP-C 2014
 Cat-call (Urban Definition): A shrill call or whistle generally directed at females to get their attention e.g. psst….