Jamaica: Political will needed to end violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls

Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s rights groups in Jamaica are urging the country’s authorities to fight discrimination and sexual violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls by fully implementing a national Action Plan, according to a report released by Amnesty International.

The Plan – which has been developed by Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights’s rights organisations in Jamaica – includes recommendations such as the introduction of a national campaign against discrimination and sexual violence and the development of a public education programme aimed at preventing rape and sexual crimes.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK director said:

“Only decisive action will put an end to discrimination and sexual violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in Jamaica. Most of the recommendations of the Action Plan do not require extensive investment, only determination and political will.”

According to Amnesty International's findings, widespread discrimination against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in Jamaica makes them targets of sexual violence and exposes them to serious health risks – including sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

Findings from today’s report suggest that girls are particular targets of sexual violence and that Jamaican government has consistently failed to deal with the issue effectively. According to a study published by UNICEF, 70 per cent of all sexual assaults reported in 2004 were against girls.

Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights also face discrimination and strong barriers when they decide to report sexual violence. The sexual assault investigations unit in Jamaica estimates that only 25 per cent of sexual violence is reported.

Bringing cases of sexual violence to court is extremely difficult. One problem is that witnesses or victims are often threatened even killed. Enid Gordon was 15 when she was raped by two men. She and her family filed a complaint against the men, who were arrested, charged, and released on bail. On October 12, 2005, one week before she was due to testify against the two men in court, Enid was found dead in the same place that she had been raped a year earlier. She had been strangled with her school tie. Results of the investigation are pending.

When cases do get to court, Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights there are faced with new challenges. According to the report by Amnesty International, one of the most serious problems in the criminal justice system is the “warning” judges are required to issue in cases of uncorroborated sexual assault, a compulsory practice derived from common or case-law.

Kate Allen said:

““Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights have good reason to think that they will not be believed – the evidence is all around them, in their societies and communities. Juries, the police, families, and sometimes Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights themselves, believe that they are partially responsible for their attacks.”

Amnesty International is also calling for legislative reforms – particularly to the Offences against the Person Act, the Sexual Harassment Bill, and the Incest (Punishment) Act – for improvement of investigation techniques and for the establishment of gender-based training for police and judicial officials dealing with cases of sexual violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights.

Kate Allen, director, Amnesty International UK said:

“It isn’t an impossible or expensive task to end violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights in Jamaica. It only takes determination and respect for the human rights of Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights.”

Read a copy of the report Sexual violence against Women's rights's rightss rights's rights's rights's rights and girls in Jamaica: “just a little sex”

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