Immediately following House Speaker Marissa Dalrymple-Phillibert’s statement in which Jamaican women parliamentarians collectively denounced gender-based violence, Juliet Holness on Tuesday (April 20) did the unthinkable.
Holness, the Member of Parliament for East Rural St Andrew, went on Twitter to deliver a masterclass in missing the point, claiming that despite evidence to the contrary, Jamaicans should look at the chronic scourge of violence through non-partisan, genderless lenses.
“Jamaica has had a long-standing problem with violence which we inherited from the days of slavery. Many of our institutions have perpetuated violence inclusive of our education system, our domestic practices and some of our disciplinary beliefs,” she began.
The thread continues for some time, spewing philosophical ideologies. She praised Prime Minister (and husband) Andrew Holness for being “relentless” in his push to abolish corporal punishment in schools, before shifting to dismiss the crisis being faced by women and girls across the island as part of a larger issue.
“We need to stop seeing acts of violence in a partisan or a gender-specific way so we can address the root of the problem which continues to affect every class, race, gender, political or sexual orientation. WE HAVE A NATIONAL VIOLENCE PROBLEM WHICH REQUIRES A NON-VIOLENT SOLUTION,” she argued.
Forgive me, if I’m wrong, but were you not a part of the 18 parliamentarians, who are women, that had just stood in solidarity with victims of gender-based violence, Mrs Holness?
Pay close attention, folks
What you’re seeing here is a Jamaican woman, worse still, an MP with means to push for an amendment to the Constitution, “All violence matters” an issue that predominantly affects her gender.
On the SAME day, she and her peers claimed to denounce said acts after days of silence over the George Wright scandal.
In light of this let’s present madam Holness with a few facts:
- A 2018 report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found that Jamaica, with nearly 11 women killed per 100,000, had the second-highest rate of femicide in the world. The island was only ‘outperformed’ by El Salvador, a Central American country struggling to tackle warring gang factions.
- According to the latest available data, one in four women (25.2 per cent) has experienced physical violence by a male partner, and one in four women (24.4 per cent) reported being sexually harassed during their lifetime.”
Yet still, we should not look at acts of violence as “gender-specific”, right?
Also, this is coming from the same Juliet Holness, who in a November 2020 tweet commemorating International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, said this: “Violence against women is one of the most persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world and remains largely unreported due to the impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it. We must protect the women in our society against any form of violence.”
So which is it, Mrs Holness? Is gender-based violence a devastating human rights violation or should we look at the issue through a genderless lens?
Do you see how conflicting statements can be confusingly interpreted?
And this comes from my male perspective… imagine what women without your level of opportunity and security face daily?
The same women, who smile begrudgingly after being sexually harassed en route to school, work, home?
I’m not them and I feel gaslighted.
Why is it so seemingly convenient to speak through both sides of your mouth to suit whatever situation? And what was the difference between how Jamaicans felt about violence against women in November 2020 and April 2021?
While we’re at it, what is the country’s progress on the 10-year National Strategic Action Plan to Eliminate gender-based violence in Jamaica by 2027? We are three years into the plan since it was launched in 2018 by the Ministry of Gender.
The same way you acknowledged that corporal punishment was harmful to children, couldn’t you also back the need for more to be done for women?
I cannot help but see the glaring hypocrisy of Holness’ most recent comments, especially given the fact she is aware of gender-based violence’s impact on women and the wider society.
It seems to me, and to many on the timeline who dragged the East Rural MP, that more often than not our leaders, regardless of gender, know at length, all of Jamaica’s social ills. They also know exactly how to fix it.
Armed with that knowledge and the means by which to change our current dynamic, enact meaningful legislation—for politicians to sit in their seats of privilege and watch as we descend a worsening rabbit hole says more than you would think.
Our leaders are proving that they have neither the desire nor capacity to make things better.
I implore you, Mrs Holness, and all your peers in Gordon House, cut the crap.
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