“The more things change, the more they remain the same.”
This popular adage aptly describes the present state of affairs which has sent shock waves through the country. Alarmingly, since the start of the new year, three women have been senselessly murdered by their intimate partners for reasons that are as illogical as they are infuriating.
This state of affairs is unsettlingly reminiscent of a period in 2017 when an abrupt and seemingly unceasing spate of violence directed against women by their ex-partners produced scores of casualties in quick succession.
Both the recent murders of the three young women, as well as the ignorant and downright idiotic responses emanating from some quarters of the society, say much about the posture of our society towards gender equality, as well as the very little value it ascribes to a woman’s life, particularly if she is seen as having failed to conform to mainstream societal expectations prescribing certain standards of ‘respectability’.
Indeed, chief among the vexing justifications advanced in a bid to justify or otherwise excuse away the bestial acts perpetrated against those women is the supposed tendency of women to “take mens’ things” while having the temerity to believe that they are still entitled to exercise their autonomous rights on their own terms. In other words, according to their proponents, once a woman accepts anything in the nature of material gifts or money from a man, he somehow comes to acquire proprietary rights over her, which he can exercise at will.
It is truly disappointing that such an outmoded way of thinking continues to be fashionable in what should be a modern and progressive era. Still, it is not at all surprising since our society remains obdurately androcentric, notwithstanding the significant advancements made by women in various areas of nation building.
Moreover, antiquated (and harmful) gender norms continue to play an outsized role in shaping and defining the contours of relational interactions between men and women in Jamaica, with many subscribing, for example, to the belief that to be a ‘real man’ one must dominate and control ‘their woman’ in every important respect and, by the same token, ‘discipline’ her if she transgresses certain rules of gender civility.
The experiences shared by a number of women, across lines of social class, age and educational background, confirm that even the mere act of navigating certain educational, professional, as well as personal spaces, invariably presents formidable challenges to their sense of security and safety.
There is as such an urgent need for more targeted interventions to stem the tide of gender-based violence directed against the women of this country in all its manifestations.
I wait with bated breath to see whether strong leadership will be taken on this issue by those at the helm of governance, who have consistently declared, affirmed and reaffirmed their commitment to realising the goal of gender equality in various fora. After all, one woman is one too many.
LINK ORIGINAL: Jamaica Gleaner