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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 June 2006, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Jamaica urged to act against rape
Amnesty International has called on the Jamaican government to confront what it says is widespread sexual violence and discrimination against women and girls.

An Amnesty report says thousands of women are sexually assaulted every year but victims are often too scared to report the crime or testify in court.

The prevalence of guns and gangs also contributes to the high level of sexual violence, Amnesty says.

The government has disputed the report, saying violence is being tackled.

Each year thousands of Jamaican women and girls are sexually assaulted in their communities, schools, workplaces and in the street, Amnesty says.

Jamaican authorities are failing to prevent and investigate these abuses properly and to punish the perpetrators, it says.

Witnesses in rape cases are often threatened or even killed, the report says.

Strangled

The human rights group details the case of a 15-year-old, Enid Gordon, whose family filed a complaint after she was raped by two men.

A week before she was due to testify in court, she was found dead, strangled with her school tie, in the same place where she had been raped.

Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller
Jamaica's new prime minister has promised tough action on crime

Amnesty says a culture of guns, sexual violence and gang-controlled territories contributes to the high levels of violence against women.

"Women's freedom of movement, and therefore their freedom to work, to study and to access health care, can be severely restricted. Women are also more vulnerable to 'protectors' who may ensure safe passage in return for sexual favours," the report said.

The acting director of Jamaica's Bureau of Women's Affairs, Faith Webster, has rejected Amnesty's findings.

She said the government had made major strides in addressing discrimination and crime against women.

"We are taking steps to amend the laws to deal with this issue," she told the Associated Press news agency.

The new prime minister, Portia Simpson Miller, who is Jamaica's first female leader, has said tackling the country's high rate of crime is a government priority.


SEE ALSO
'I am seen as a symbol of hope'
15 Jun 06 |  Americas
Hard return for Jamaica drugs mule
19 Jan 06 |  Americas
Jamaica gets first woman leader
31 Mar 06 |  Americas
Jamaica acts over police abuse
09 Jun 03 |  Americas
Country profile: Jamaica
04 Jul 03 |  Country profiles

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