“Place a move strange, watch how yuh walk to mi. Look inna mi face when you a talk to mi. Hands pon mi waist might haffi draw fi mi…because mi nah sit an wait pon the law!” These are well-known lyrics to Protoje’s new single “Self Defense.” Through the song, the contemporary reggae singer offers self-defence as a prescription for the perpetration of violence against women.
In the official video, released July 6th 2021, three females appeared to be in a heated discussion. A male sitting on the side-line awoke from unconsciousness and tried to make a getaway as he limped quickly in bloodstained clothes. However, his hopes of escaping were short-lived. The females chased him down, bound his hands and put a plastic bag over his head…Actual self-defence… cool but mi nuh support dah violence deh a bumboclaat. Nonetheless, most of us can agree that violence against women is an odious disease of pandemic proportions. Even so, is it only violence against women that should be considered? What of violence against men?
Violence against women and men exists in the broader context of gender-based violence. UNICEF defines gender-based violence (GBV) as any threat of harm or harmful act perpetrated against persons because of their gender. As such it can be directed at men and women. It is only based on recognition of this and the dynamics between genders that targeted approaches can be developed to benefit each gender while incorporating a wider cross-section of stakeholders.
Instances of violence against women and men have been highlighted in the media. Who can forget 20-year-old Khanice Jackson? She was raped, strangled and her body dumped along the roadway. Of course, there was also 61-year-old Sharon Cole who was chopped to death, and 37-year-old Tamika Richards whose throat was slashed and blood pooled around her body. It comes as no surprise that most instances of GBV in Jamaica are meted out against women and girls. This is also true for the rest of the world. The World Bank notes that across the world 1 in 3 women will experience GBV in their lifetime. This is in contrast to 1 in 5 men.
Given the disproportionate impact of GVB on women, should GBV against men be dismissed? Aaron Morgan might not think so. Mr. Morgan recently disclosed to The Gleaner that he was routinely abused by his former partner.
“She give me one thump inna mi mouth, buss mi mouth, and mi jus hold her and lean her up on the zinc, then mi run off, and she start mash up everything inna the house.”
However, his admission was not of his own accord. His story was highlighted after his former partner was shot and killed by police when he called them to rescue him from abuse. Mr. Morgan stated that if he knew the deadly turn of events to come, he wouldn’t have called the police. Again, this was despite his suffering.
“Police nah send nobody fi come rescue me all the while me want rescue. All the while Mumma do the tings dem and go a station say me beat her up, and when me go down there dem nuh want hear weh mi a say.”
Government representatives, across administrations, have declared a commitment to eliminating GBV. In an attempt to back their declarations, they have promised to amend related legislation, changed the name of the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, and developed a National Strategic Action Plan to eliminate gender-based violence (NSAP).
There have been amendments to the Domestic Violence Act to broaden the definition of abuse. However, legislative amendments such as the acknowledgment of rape within the context of marriage were still being discussed during a debate in the Upper House on July 10th, 2021. The recent name change to the Bureau of Gender Affairs (BGA) sets the tone for a more inclusive approach to GBV. However, initiatives that directly impact survivors, potential victims, and most importantly offenders and potential offenders must be implemented.
Establishing a hotline at the BGA to assist male survivors of GBV is a step in the right direction. This can be complemented by establishing a chat or toll-free text line for male victims to make reports and seek advice. These additional channels may serve survivors who aren’t able to call in directly for fear of being overheard by abusive partners with who they might live. It also eliminates the financial barrier to receiving assistance. Likewise establishing an official BGA website to serve as a central repository for resources related to gender issues will increase the utilization of BGA services.
Moreover, developing a more inclusive approach to GBV would enhance the effectiveness of the Bureau. Having a narrow approach to violence against women places the burden on women to address the issue. This leads to sentiments of the woman provoking violence against her through speech, dress, or infidelity. There is no justification for GBV. These sentiments only blame survivors and dissuade them from seeking help.
Initiatives like the Jamaican Dadz Podcast featuring Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Floyd Green, and JCF senior communication strategist Dennis Brooks, launched on June 21st 2020 is a great approach to gender issues. It focuses on parenting as not only a challenge only women be concerned with. It also creates a rare space for men to get involved and engaged.
Focus groups organized by BGA having only male participants focusing on reforming male perpetrators is an excellent adaptation to address violence against women. This approach is being taken by the Clarendon Inter-Agency Network (CIAN) who has also developed a strategic plan to tackle GBV.
Integrating the efforts of central and local government can help to streamline responses to GBV, facilitate long-term funding and avoid a waste of resources. These recommendations, along with existing NSAP initiatives, such as A-STREAM, (Advancing Secondary, Tertiary, Remedial Education for Adolescent Mothers) can help to bring about more targeted and inclusive measures to tackle GBV.
The effects of gender-based violence can be lethal. It leaves survivors physically, psychologically, and emotionally harmed. These outcomes can have a deleterious impact on our economy and development. However, a targeted and inclusive approach to GBV will benefit women and men. Moreover, its benefits would be felt by wider society. Ultimately this approach can and help contribute to national development and create a society where “No woman” and no man “Nuh cry.”