Thousands of Jamaicans protest against gender-based violence

Peaceful Assembly

Following the recent murders of three young women, thousands of Jamaicans mobilised to bring attention to the growing problem of gender-based violence. In an effort to raise awareness of this disturbing issue, a march was held in Montego Bay on 6th February 2017. A group of women from diverse backgrounds as well as some men, including Senator Charles Sinclair, peacefully demonstrated with the aim of "moving the conversation about violence against women and children from social media platforms to public spaces”. Numerous groups across the island also participated in solidarity through social media networks, as well as by dressing in black and also joining silent protests. Demonstrations were also held on 8th March 2017, International Women's Day, with groups calling on the government to be more proactive in addressing gender-based violence in the country. 

Expression

A prominent LGBTI activist and anti-gender-based violence advocate, Ms. Latoya Nugent was detained in mid-March for leading the #SayTheirNames movement - a campaign to encourage survivors of sexual abuse to reveal the names of their attackers. Her arrest came just days after she helped organise an unprecedented national protest against sexual abuse. She was charged under the 2015 Cybercrimes Act for using a computer with malicious intent. According to the charges, she had allegedly posted information on social media identifying individuals as sexual predators without having gone through the appropriate legal process.

There were public expressions in support and opposed to Nugent's tactics employed in the campaign. Among those who supported her, one blogger stated:

“Isn’t this perhaps designed to serve as a warning to civil society and those who comment in online forums? Doesn’t this represent a direct threat to freedom of speech”?

Another activist commented on the worrisome trend against civic freedoms in the region:

“As democratic spaces across the Caribbean region continue to shrink, in addition to being accompanied by increasing police and state surveillance and repression, we recognize the urgency and necessity of maintaining spaces for civil disobedience and organizing. We demand that our fundamental human right to resist and mobilise be respected”.