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KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Residents of this country and law enforcement officials are being encouraged to report instances of sexual assault and to conduct speedy investigations, respectively.

The call came from Prime Minister and Minister of Legal Affairs Dr. Ralph Gonsalves as he responded in Parliament last week to a question by opposition Senator Anesia Baptiste about the number of femicides and sexual assault of women in the year ending January 2012.

Gonsalves told lawmakers that the one-year period would not be sufficiently illustrative of progress made or not made in tackling the situation over the last decade.

He contrasted the one-year period ending January 2012 to that ending January 2000. Between 2011 and 2012, there were five femicides, compared to three in the earlier period. Two resulted from domestic disputes in 1999 and four in 2011.

There were 307 instances of women being wounded between January 2011 and 2012, compared to 307 between 1999 and 2000 while those involving domestic disputes were 79 and 209 in the respective time periods.

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Gonsalves, who was twice accused and cleared of sexually assault, said that the number of rape cases during the two periods “were more or less in the same area”, with 56 cases reported in the year ending January 2012 compared to 59 in the period ending January 2000.

“… when we look at incest and intercourse with girls under 15 and girls under 13, … we see much larger numbers in the latter period,” he said, adding that there were four cases in 2000 compared to 81 last year.

“But what is interesting is that of the 81 cases of incest in the latter period, one person is charged with 63 cases. Now, when you look at the cases for the girls under the age of 15, there are 46 cases in the latter period but 38 is one person charged,” he said.

“What I think has been happening over the last 10 years, however, though, is that we have been seeing more reports of domestic disputes and more reports of incidents of rape and incest,” he said, adding that statistics on the proportion of persons arrested, charged and convicted was difficult to talk about for a particular year.

“They are being charged but because … these are mainly indictable offences, … you don’t see the conclusion of them in that particular year,” he explained.

“The important point is that we have to be reporting more and we have to make sure that our investigation is up to speed,” he said.

He further told Parliament that the Ministry of National Security had instructed the Commissioner of Police to set up a unit to deal with sexual assault and domestic abuse.

“The top person has been chosen within CID. I have been advised it is a superintendent, a woman, an experience police officer who would be in charged of a unit with domestic abuse, violence against women and also trafficking in persons,” he said.

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