ON Friday, Guyana joined the international community in observing International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. At the same time, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security rolled out its 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV).
Notably, with a high number of local domestic violence cases, the Human Services Ministry continues its focus on raising awareness and making persons more conscientious about reporting Gender-Based Violence and supporting victims of domestic violence.
Under the theme “UNiTE! Activism to end violence against women and girls,” Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr Vindhya Persaud, stressed that there is need for a shift in attitude and culture as well as for a more proactive movement towards reporting, support, and intervention.
She lamented the frequency of domestic violence occurrences and underscored that everyone must support survivors of domestic violence.
Against this backdrop, Minister Persaud is piloting the new Family Violence Bill in the National Assembly, which seeks to address shortcomings in the current domestic violence laws and implement necessary measures to tackle and eventually end GBV in Guyana.
The new draft Bill will redefine interpersonal relationships, adjust powers ascribed to the police and the courts, and implement new punitive measures for perpetrators.
The Bill also proposes new punitive measures and expands the meaning of interpersonal relationships to include the extended family when it comes to prosecution, so that more people can be held accountable.
Currently, GBV is regulated by the Domestic Violence Act, 1996. The Act, which is also hailed as one of the most powerful in the world, particularly because at its core are three significant Orders – Protection, Tenancy and Occupation – is specifically designed not only to safeguard abused women and their children, but also to ensure that they are not displaced from their homes.
The core concepts of GBV – gender, harm, power, control and rights – are defined and discussed. It is interesting to note that power is not seen as bad unless the individual with the power abuses it, while control is recognised as being used to retain dominance.
However, the whole gamut of gender-based violence is explored and some popular myths are examined and dispelled, such as the view that “If women are treated as equal to men in a relationship, it causes domestic violence.”
It is also categorically stated that “All human beings, whether men, women [or] children, have equal human rights. The government has a role of providing equal protection to all its citizens whether they are men, women or children.”
Notably, over 40 proposed amendments, including expansion of the definitions of ‘domestic violence’; inclusion of more comprehensive explanations of ‘economic, emotional and psychological violence’; updating the penalties for breach of protection orders; and inclusion of batterer-intervention programmes and counselling as remedies under the law, were recommended.
The Family Violence Act is drafted in conjunction with several legislations proposed by the government to tackle domestic violence and offer a rehabilitative approach.
Consultations on the Family Violence Bill will be held during the ministry’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence which concludes on December 10, International Human Rights Day.
By filing complaints at police stations, abused women should receive better attention, resulting in more convictions and decreased domestic and gender-based violence.