Rape and Domestic Violence: Rape is illegal and carries a maximum penalty of 25 years’ imprisonment. The law criminalizes spousal rape only under the following conditions: when spouses have separated or begun proceedings to dissolve the marriage; when the husband is under a court order not to molest or cohabit with his wife; or when the husband knows he suffers from a sexually transmitted infection. The law criminalizes sexual relations by an adult with a child--male or female--under the age of 16 and provides for penalties ranging from 15 years to life imprisonment. The JCF reported 460 rapes through October 24, a 20 percent decrease from the same period in 2014. The Bureau of Women’s Affairs (BWA) in the Office of the Prime Minister believed the true incidence was significantly higher than these statistics indicated, given the problem of underreporting due to fear of stigma, retribution, or further violence. The government’s 2014 Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica indicated sexual assault was the cause of more than a thousand emergency room visits (one-eighth of the total).
The JCF Center for Investigation of Sexual Offenses and Child Abuse (CISOCA) comprised a multidisciplinary team, which included police officers, social workers, and counselors from the Victim Support Unit, that handled sex crimes and offered integrated services, including providing legal information. CISOCA officers received tailored training on sexual offense investigations.
Violence against women continued to be a severe problem. The law prohibits domestic violence and provides remedies including restraining orders and other noncustodial sentencing. Breaching a restraining order is punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 JMD ($84) and six months’ imprisonment. The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Woman Inc. reported that women frequently complained that police failed to treat domestic violence as a crime and take the necessary reports. Studies reported that domestic violence was widespread. The Ministry of National Security’s Victim Support Unit, Dispute Resolution Foundation, Peace Centers, and Women’s Centers as well as various faith-based institutions offered counseling countrywide. Woman Inc. Crisis Centers in Kingston and Montego Bay provided counseling, shelter facilities, and support groups for rape victims, adult survivors of incest, and victims of gender-based violence. NGOs expressed concern that resources were insufficient for police investigations of gender-based violence and for counseling and shelter for victims.
NGOs reported the criminal justice system failed to hold perpetrators of violence against women and children accountable with the necessary urgency and seriousness.
Sexual Harassment: No legislation addresses sexual harassment and no legal remedy exists for victims of sexual harassment, although the prime minister presented a sexual harassment bill in the House of Representatives in December. The BWA worked with UNESCO on a project entitled “Addressing the Gap of Gender-based Violence between the State and Vulnerable Women and Girls” to strengthen awareness of gender-based violence, sexual harassment, and the need to combat trafficking in persons. The BWA also continued to provide sensitization and training to public-sector workers to ensure that gender considerations were integrated into all plans, policies, programs, projects, and operations.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children, manage their reproductive health, and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Access to information on modern contraception and skilled health attendance during pregnancy and at delivery was widely available. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) reported a modern contraceptive prevalence rate of 66 percent. Women have access to emergency health care, including for the management of consequences arising from abortions; however, the standard of care varied widely, especially in rural communities. According to the UN Children’s Fund, 91 percent of pregnant women received quality prenatal care at least once during pregnancy, and skilled personnel delivered 97 percent of births. Nevertheless, in 2010 (most recent available data) UNFPA reported a maternal mortality rate of 110 deaths per 100,000 live births.
Discrimination: Women sought jobs and served in almost every occupation in both the public and private sectors. Although the law provides for the same legal status and rights for women as for men, including equal pay for equal work, women suffered from discrimination in the workplace and often earned less than men (see section 7.d.). The government repealed legislation that had restricted night work for women. Domestic workers were particularly vulnerable to workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. There was an active community of women’s rights groups, which focused on the protection of victims of sexual abuse, participation of women in the political process, and legislative reforms affecting women. As of September a total of 26 government ministries, departments, and agencies had received the Gender Equality Certification and Seal under the National Policy for Gender Equality (NPGE). To earn the certificate each entity must have established a gender focal point, participated in at least 80 percent of NPGE-approved training sessions, and developed an action plan with the principal’s approval to implement the NPGE.