A quarter of Jamaican adolescent females experience sexual violence, and with school closures and curfew measures due to COVID-19, local children agencies foresee a heightened risk of exposure.
The source of the data – Jamaica Women's Health Survey 2016 – establishes that sexual abuse for 15-19 year-old women has always been a pervasive challenge, and Novia Condell-Gibson, adolescent health specialist at United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Jamaica, asserts that sexual violence against girls and women is a long-standing issue that doesn’t receive the response it requires.
“It is alarming that one in four women experience this. If that is not an emergency I don't know what is,” Condell-Gibson said, pointing out the prediction for a heightened risk of exposure due to COVID-19 measures is a global observation.
Globally, there are reports of increased violence against children and gender-based violence in the wake of stay-at-home measures. Between January to June 2020, Jamaica’s National Children's Registry received over 1,000 reports of sexual abuse that have been referred for investigation. While reports dipped significantly in April (82) and May (119) – at a time when reporting was more difficult among COVID-19 restrictions – they rose again in June to 228.