Jamaica Gleaner / It has been classified as a public health epidemic, but there are concerns that the Government is doing very little to address intimate partner violence and has, in fact, left it up to volunteers to intervene and tackle the issue.
Political commentator and University of the West Indies lecturer Nadeen Spence is among those who share this view, and she believes that the time has come for those in authority to get more involved in addressing the problem.
“There is a lack of, I think, will on the part of our Government to interfere in a matter that I think is of critical societal importance,” Spence told a group of editors and reporters on Thursday during a Gleaner Editors’ forum.
The drafting of a national strategic action plan to eliminate gender-based violence is a good start, but Spence, who served as part of the committee when the plan was being conceptualised about 10 years ago, is disappointed at the rate of implementation.
Spence was also a critical part of the Bureau of Gender Affairs, the government agency tasked with representing the interests of men and women through the promotion of gender equity and equality.
“If you look at the Bureau, for example, it hasn’t had a substantial presence in our society, and this is where a lot of the advocacy, and so on, around these issues usually takes place,” she lamented.
“Much of what we are talking about now, in terms of helping women, and so on, to deal with violence come through the NGO (non-governmental organisation) sector comes through volunteers. It comes through other women who are volunteering time, along with their daily work to raise awareness or to talk about these issues,” she said.
Breaking the cycle of domestic violence a piecemeal approach is not sufficient to curtail domestic violence, argued Deputy Commissioner of Police Novelette Grant.
“When you consider the whole structure of families, and communities, and relationships, you can’t leave this thing to volunteerism alone to do it,” she shared during the forum.
Pointing to the most recent Reproductive Health Survey, Grant noted that 79 per cent of the respondents surveyed had witnessed abuse.
“That’s a big chunk of children growing up in abusive situations. What does that say for them?” she asked.
“You have to think about your primary, your secondary, and your tertiary intervention into this problem, just like you would in any public-health epidemic that you have because there is a cycle to be broken, and when you look at the health-seeking process, who do people go to? Do they know where to go?” she said.
She said that there is an expectation that locking up people will solve the problem.
“Many times when they come to the police, to law enforcement, because of economic reasons, they would come back and try to persuade the police, and if they can’t persuade the police, they either go before the court, or don’t go before the court, because they think the breadwinner is gone,” she said.