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The much needed Domestic Violence Bill 2015 is finally before Parliament


The Domestic Violence Bill 2015, now before a Select Committee of Parliament, has been a long time in coming. It had its first reading earlier this month, having been presented to Parliament by Minister of National Mobilization Frederick Stephenson.

Yesterday, at a forum on ‘The Role of Government in the Advancement of a Women’s Agenda’ and ‘The Elimination of Violence against Women,’ organized by the New Democratic Party (NDP), a very useful presentation was made on the provisions of the Domestic Violence Bill 2015 now being considered by Parliament.{{more}}

According to attorney-at-law Samantha Robertson, this new Bill expands the definition of domestic abuse, offers greater protection to victims of domestic abuse and gives the Court greater powers to punish those guilty of such crimes.

There is general agreement that the levels of violence, including rape, against women in this country are far too high. Women’s rights activists, law enforcement officials, members of the judiciary and right-thinking people in general have welcomed the move to finally bring the Bill to the House; the hope is that it is passed without any further undue delay.

Late last year, officials within the police force and the Gender Affairs Division reported that an increasing number of women are coming forward to report incidences of domestic abuse and violence perpetrated against them, compared with previous years. More than likely, this is because of increased awareness among women.

However, even though the women are coming forward, there still remains the difficulty in getting convictions for the perpetrators and ensuring adequate protection for victims of abusive relationships. This new Bill, according to legal experts, will make it easier for the crimes to be prosecuted.

It is perhaps because so few of the men who abuse women in our society have had to pay for their crimes by serving time in jail, why we have not had more success in our efforts to sensitize the populace about why such heinous acts must not be tolerated. If our boys and men, girls and women do not observe that society disapproves of the callous and disrespectful manner in which some of our men treat our women, this culture of violence will be perpetuated.

It is only when women are not made to feel that in reporting acts of violence against them, they are “making more of an issue than it is,” that they will speak up. It is only when women know, that when they make a report, they will be provided with a safe haven, that they will come forward. It is only when women can be confident that their attackers will be punished, that they will be confident enough to say no more.