JFJ wants laws to be strengthened to curb gender based violence

Mickel Jackson, Executive Director, Jamaicans for Justice.

As Jamaica joins the world in observing 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, human rights lobby group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) is calling for lawmakers to enhance legislation to better protect women and men against domestic violence.

According to JFJ, while the government has made some strides in the area of gender based violence, pointing to the passage of the Sexual Harassment Bill, as a step in the right direction, JFJ says more still needs to be done.

JFJ chided the government for moving at a “snail’s pace” to make changes to the Domestic Violence Act which it noted needed to be overhauled.

“Three years later, the GOJ has moved at a snail’s pace to overhaul the legislation with merely making an announcement on June 8, 2021 that the DVA would be tabled in Parliament for amendments,” read a release from JFJ on the matter.

JFJ noted that the current DVA legislation had a plethora of problems namely :

  • No clear definition of what amounts to domestic violence in Jamaica;
  • The Act does not itemise a wide range of specifications to define the scope of a Protection Order;
  • The duties and powers of the police under the legislation is not clearly defined, enabling law enforcement officials to provide an appropriate response to GBV victims; and
  • The punishment specified for the violation of a Protection Order is a small fine ($10,000) or a short term of imprisonment. Neither of which is serious enough to act as a deterrent.

In addition, JFJ wants Protection Orders issued by the court to be introduced as a material fact, noting that this could assist persons who have experienced violence in their legal matters, such as, child custody, maintenance and dissolution of property.  

JFJ also used the occasion to encourage GBV survivors to consider getting legal support; it is a service the organization provides at no cost to the victim.

“In Jamaica, GBV remains widespread and prevalent across different socioeconomic groups. Recent data suggests that approximately 28 per cent of Jamaican women have experienced physical or sexual violence in their lifetime,” said Executive Director, Jamaicans for Justice, Mickel Jackson. 

“At JFJ, while we provide avenues for legal recourse for people who have experienced GBV, we continue to conduct legal literacy sessions in several communities so that people are not only aware of their rights, but are also encouraged to make reports when they see rights of others being violated,” added Jackson. 

JFJ, through its Justice for Persons Experiencing GBV Initiative launched in 2020, has helped scores of people, primarily women, access legal support.