The Ministry of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport has officially launched its Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Helpline and Sexual Harassment Investigation Units.

These are in response to the high incidence of gender-based violence across Jamaica.

The units were opened by Portfolio Minister, Olivia Grange, during Wednesday’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW) banner event, at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

The GBV Helpline Unit, which is staffed with three GBV Helpline specialists and one supervisor, was established on September 25, 2023, to support victims, survivors and witnesses.

 Grange shared that, to date, the unit has dealt with 7,466 cases, 5,227 of which were from females and 2,239 from males.

In January 2024, the Government will provide resources for the doubling of the number of GBV Helpline specialists – from three to six – and the appointment of a director.

Grange said eliminating gender-based violence requires “collective attention, advocacy, and activism”.

Citing the Women’s Health Survey, she said one in every four Jamaican women has experienced intimate partner violence during her lifetime.

“Domestic violence remains a major concern. It is often under-reported owing to fear, owing to stigma, lack of support or fear of reprisal. Sexual violence is alarmingly prevalent, affecting one in three women, and includes rape, incest and sexual harassment as well as other forms of violence such as sexual abuse, exploitation and discrimination,”  Grange said.

The Sexual Harassment Investigation Unit, established on April 1, 2022, is responsible for handling matters regarding sexual harassment in the workplace.

The unit is charged with interviewing complainants, witnesses, and employees regarding alleged cases of sexual harassment, providing technical and logistical support to the Sexual Harassment Tribunal, coordinating training for the Tribunal and authorised members and conducting sensitisation sessions in various organisations, non-governmental organisations, and ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

Grange disclosed that sensitisation sessions have, so far, reached more than 28,430 Jamaicans.

She expressed gratitude to the European Union (EU) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) for supporting Jamaica’s response to gender-based violence which, she pointed out, the Government is committed to eliminating.

“There is no excuse for abuse, no excuse for gender-based violence. Our commitment is reflected through our actions to protect and empower our women and our girls. We reconfirm our commitment to creating a society where every person can live a life free from fear and violence,” Grange stated.

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