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Friday, June 23, 2006 

Gov't failing to tackle discrimination
against women - Amnesty
Observer Reporter
Friday, June 23, 2006

AMNESTY International, in a damning report published yesterday, chided the Jamaican government for its failure to tackle discrimination against women.

The rights group also criticised the government for what it claimed was the administration's shortcomings in enacting legislations to deal adequately with marital rape, incest or sexual harassment, which has encouraged impunity and left women without the protection of the law.

Amnesty said that by failing to deal with discrimination against women, the Jamaican government was violating the most basic treaty obligations under the UN Convention for the Elimination of Violence against Women (CEDAW).

"Discrimination is entrenched and often exacerbated in the police and criminal justice system. Women and adolescent girls are rarely believed by the police, so have little confidence in reporting crimes against them," the report said.

Evidence, the report added, was often not sought effectively or professionally, and witnesses were rarely protected. "In court, women's testimony is explicitly given less weight than men's, thereby depriving women of the right to equality before the law," Amnesty said.

Entrenched discrimination against women, Amnesty claimed, meant many individuals failed to appreciate that forced sex carried out by an acquaintance or family member was a serious crime.

The rate of sexual violence against women in Jamaica is very high, according to the report, and was accompanied by spiralling levels of community violence and homicide throughout the island.
But Faith Webster, executive director of the government's Bureau of Women's Affairs, said the reported was one-sided and urged persons to take an unbiased approach in reading it."I just think that the language of the report is somewhat sensational," she said.

She had an issue with the phrasing of a section of the report which stated that "discrimination against women and girls is so entrenched in Jamaican society that many Jamaican and government officials are failing to see it as a problem.""This is not true we do see it as a problem and so I don't agree with the fact that they say government is not taking enough steps to deal with this issue," Webster told the Observer yesterday.

She pointed to a number of public awareness initiatives that the government had implemented to raise women's awareness at all levels.

She added that the bureau had placed emphasis on violence against women and girls. "We have prioritised this area because we have seen it as a serious concern for our women and girls," she said.

Webster, however, admitted that while the bureau was doing their best there was still much more to be done."I would think the Jamaican government is committed, but even as we are doing our best with the resources that we have one can always do more one could never deny that," she said.

She also admitted that there could be an acceleration to amendments of legislations in some areas.

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