Disturbing news emerged recently that some female students were held at gunpoint and assaulted by an intruder at a St. Catherine based high school. This most vicious act shows the extent to which violence against females is still very much a cause for concern in the Jamaican society. Despite being a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Form of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) Jamaica continues to experience high levels of violence against our women and girls. It appears that our government has fallen short in terms of putting in place mechanism and systems to protect our women folk from the almost daily assault on them. The society is shocked ever so often by the level of violence especially sexually assault meted out to the female sex in the society. However, in this latest despicable incident not much has been said publicly condemning this crime. We all should be disappointed and disgusted at the lack of public outcry and condemnation by civil society. Where are the women’s rights groups in the society? Our girls and females are being brutally attacked. Where is the voice of the church on this matter? What has happened to the voice of those state agencies with direct responsibility for the protection and welfare of our children? Why have you been so silent?

Perhaps as a society we have become immune to the high levels of violence which now characterize much of the society. It is very much disheartening that our children can no longer enjoy their childhood or feel safe in school. One would have thought that children would be safe in our educational institutions. Clearly this is not the situation. Too many of our schools are not properly fenced which allows for outsiders to gain access to the grounds of these institutions. Added to that a significant number of our schools lack adequate security and this requires urgent attention from all stakeholders’ involvement in the teaching and learning experience namely the school boards and the Ministry of Education. In the past we have had teachers being attacked at school. The safety and protection of our teachers and students should be paramount, after all the children are the future of this country. It is reasonable to think that any parent or guardian would expect that his/her child would be safe at school, however, for this horrific incident to occur during school hours clearly this is not reassuring for parents regarding the safety of their children at school.
The society for the most part has lost its sense of social consciousness and social justice. Last year we were outraged by the brutal rape of five females including an eight year old girl in St. James. This year it is business as per usual. We are indeed a people with very short term memories! Where is the public solidarity with the victims and their families?

We need to identify some workable solutions given our propensity to diagnose what is wrong with the Jamaican society without providing solutions. It is certainly taking the government a very long time to draft the necessary legislation for a sex offender’s registry. There was much discussion last year after the rape of the five females about creating such a database, however, nothing concrete has happened since then? The government needs to speedily institute a sex register to ensure that sexual predators can be monitored and give account of their whereabouts. We have created a culture of misogyny and now we are reaping the effects of such a culture. This is rather ironic that all these atrocities against our females’ women are happening at a time in our history where we have a female prime minister. This hatred is seen especially in some of our music where women are compartmentalized and sexualize and viewed only as sexual objects for the sexual gratification of the male of the species. Pregnant women are being murdered. Girls are being raped and child abuse is very much rampant. It is very likely that this perpetrator will not be caught given the police track record.
It’s very likely these three girls will not have any justice. The restoration we seek as a society and a people must begin our schools. Given the dysfunction in many of our homes the best option for reversing the ills of the society is our educational institutions. We need to address the generalizations about women and the stereotypes about gender roles. We need men of good report to join the discourse and speak out and engage in conversation with other men about finding ways of protecting our women. We cannot have long lasting development if our women are not protected and if our women are not included in the decision making process.
We need to re-socialize our males in the society so that they can be more respectful of our women. Probably we need to examine the national curriculum and find ways and means of incorporating social equality and human rights issues from grade seven to fifth form in order to address the societal imbalances regarding how we treat our females.
We need to sensitize and socialize our boys on matters of gender equality as well as the exploitation of women and children. We need to interrogate the deeply entrenched male biases and practices in the society which is counterproductive to the fully development and empowerment of women. The government has a tremendous role to play in this restoration process. The time is now for the government to establish a DNA database. This would be an additional mechanism to assist the police in solving crime. Of course the proper checks and balances to safeguard the rights of the citizenry must accompany such legislation. We need to return to the Jamaican of old, where women and children were protected from abuse and exploitation. We need to awaken our collective responsibility and look out for each other once again. We need to remember that it takes a village to raise a child.

Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they relate to culture and or gender issues.