KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Opposition Senator Anesia Baptiste says that this country needs to review its domestic abuse laws, citing regional experts.
Baptiste, along with Minister of Gender Affairs Frederick Stephenson — whose ministry she shadows — was among politicians from across the region at a two-day Caribbean consultation in Jamaica last week.
Speaking at a New Democratic Party press conference this week, Baptiste said, “… from my research with officials and technical persons in the field, there are certain weaknesses in our legislation that needs to be amended”.
She cited as an example the local domestic violence act, which says an abused woman can apply for a protective order only if she living with her abuser.
“If you are in … a visiting relationship, where … you don’t live together, … the law does not extend to you,” she said.
“So, you are in a visiting relationship and he meets you and he hits you or he abuses you, … you cannot apply for a protective order,” she further said, noting that some men are also abused by women, but said that this is in the minority.
Baptiste further said that technical personnel at the consultation said counselling should be mandatory for abusive men and “not making them feel that they are just bashers”.
“Certain programmes in other countries were referred to as having success. So, I am saying we have a lot of work to do in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. We have to all come on board.
“And I hope that the Honourable Minister Stephenson, who was also there at the meeting, will seriously get his government to once and for all operationalise the crisis centre, because, as it stands currently, we have no security or shelter for women of domestic violence,” Baptiste said.
She said last week’s meeting was important because it sought to sensitise Caribbean parliamentarians from both government and opposition about issues related to gender-based violence.
“… and again, once again, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ figure featured in statistics that were presented as having a high amount of domestic violence or gender-based issues per 100,000. … And, in addition to other [Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States] countries, it was the highest,” Baptiste said.
The event was organised by UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, along with partner agencies and organisations, namely U.N. Women, Inter-American Parliamentary Group on Population and Development (IAPG), Caribbean Network of Parliamentarians and CARICOM Secretariat.
It was held under the theme “Building Political Will to End Gender-Based Violence”.