In February Portia Simpson Miller was elected as president of the ruling People's National Party (PNP) and in March she became the country's first female Prime Minister. Corruption allegations emerged in October when the opposition revealed that the PNP had received a donation of 31 million Jamaican dollars from a company selling Nigerian crude oil to the international market for Jamaica.
Sexual violence against women and girls
Sexual violence continued throughout the country, resulting in severe health risks for women and girls. Sexual harassment and assault by strangers, friends, family, acquaintances and lovers was widespread but the authorities failed adequately to investigate and punish the perpetrators. Rates of HIV infection among women and girls continued to rise and people living with HIV faced systematic discrimination.
The discussions aimed at reforming the Offences Against the Person Act and the Incest Punishment Act, ongoing since 1995 and 2000 respectively, re-started in a parliamentarian joint committee on 6 December. Proposed amendments to both acts would offer greater legal protection to women and children, including making marital rape a criminal offence and increasing punishments for perpetrators of sexual violence. The Centre for Investigations of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse was improved and given further powers to investigate these crimes.
Early in 2006 a 13-year-old girl was repeatedly sexually assaulted by three teenagers in the back of a van. The assault was allegedly supervised and tape-recorded by a 46-year-old former deacon of a local church. The teenagers and the former deacon were charged with indecent assault and carnal abuse, but in November the charges were dropped by the public prosecutor's office and replaced with trafficking in human beings. The accused were released on bail pending trial, which had not started by the end of the year.
Enid Gordon was raped by two men when she was 15 years old. Two men were arrested, charged and released on bail. In October 2005, a week before she was due to testify against the men, Enid Gordon was found strangled in the place where she had been raped a year earlier. Two suspects were arrested and forensic evidence taken, but the results of the investigation were still pending.
Crime and insecurity
Homicide rates in Jamaica remained high, although numbers decreased in 2006. A total of 1,355 murders were committed during the year according to official figures, a decrease since 2005 of more than 20 per cent.
Small arms were widely available, exacerbating already high levels of violence. In October Jamaica voted in favour of a UN resolution to start working towards an Arms Trade Treaty.
Gang warfare was prevalent. Gangs were sometimes the perpetrators of violence in communities, although were sometimes perceived as the protectors of those communities due to distrust of the police. Gang leaders were known to demand adolescent girls from their families for sexual exploitation and assault.
Reports of police brutality continued. At least 138 people were allegedly killed by police during the year. Impunity for police abuses and a complete lack of accountability in the security and justice systems remained the norm.
Glenroy McDermoth, a police officer from the Jamaican Constabulary Force, was sentenced to life imprisonment in February for shooting in the back and killing Michael Dorsett in 2000. This was the first conviction of a police officer for murder committed while on duty since October 1999.
No executions took place during 2006. The last was in 1988. The 1993 Privy Council ruling that sentences on death row prisoners must be carried out within five years or be commuted remained in force. Some calls were made by high-ranking government officials to renew hangings. Seven prisoners were held on death row.
AI country reports/visits
Jamaica: Sexual violence against women and girls in Jamaica - "Just a little sex" (AI Index: AMR 38/002/2006)
AI delegates visited Jamaica in December to meet government officials and non-governmental organizations concerning violence against women.