Ronelle King was on her daily commute in Bridgetown, Barbados, when a man tried to pull her into his car after she refused his offer of a ride. She reported it to police, only to have them shrug it off. She posted on Facebook, using lifeinleggings as a social media hashtag for her campaign. Within a day, lifeinleggings took off, with women in Barbados recounting stories from street harassment to sexual assault. By the next day, lifeinleggings island-hopped to Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. The lifeinleggings women say their online movement provides an accessible and safe way to express their feelings about violence in a region where it is all too common. It helped me. It touched me. The hashtag is a reference to leggings popular among urban women in Caribbean.
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He tried to convince the court that I was guilty for them doing such a terrible thing to me," 1 recalls one Jamaican woman who was abducted from her workplace and gang-raped at gunpoint. Violence against women in Jamaica persists because the state is failing to tackle discrimination against women, allowing social and cultural attitudes which encourage discrimination and violence. Shortcomings in national legislation do not deal adequately with marital rape, incest or sexual harassment, thereby encouraging impunity and leaving women without the protection of the law. 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. Evidence is often not sought effectively or professionally, and witnesses are 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. In Jamaica, entrenched discrimination against women means many individuals fail to appreciate that forced sex carried out by an acquaintance or family member is a serious crime.
Argentinian activists pin blame on machismo as attacks on women rise
E arly one Sunday in January, a group of women arrived at a church in the rolling, green hills of rural Jamaica. The 14 activists entered the church and sat in silence, but angry words broke out when they were approached by a different pastor; the confrontation culminated with him being struck in the head by a tambourine. The incident marked the beginnings of the Tambourine Army, a new organization to fight gender-based violence in Jamaica, which this weekend will mark its arrival with a protest in Kingston. In what is believed to be the largest-ever protest against gender-based violence in the region, similar marches will be held in solidarity with another group called lifeinleggings in Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, the Bahamas and Guyana. The Caribbean has among the highest rates of sexual assault in the world: according to United Nations statistics from , one in three women have experienced sexual or physical violence at least once in their lives. In Jamaica alone over the past few months, at least eight women have been killed by domestic partners, young women have been abducted and assaulted by taxi drivers and another pastor was charged with sex-related crimes on a minor. In Trinidad, between and , women were murdered by a domestic partner. Others argue that the problem has much deeper roots.
We are also outraged by the unfair treatment and hostility demonstrated during her arrest in which she was denied medical attention when needed. Further, we believe, as other activists across the region, that Latoya is being charged in direct response to her activism against sexual violence. Specifically, she is being targeted for calling out perpetrators of violence. We believe that Latoya is innocent of the charges, and we support her intention to fight them.