Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace says he is generally pleased with the proposed change to the domestic violence bill that is expected to be passed in Parliament on Thursday.
“I think the bill is quite an improvement over what we had in terms of domestic violence, but I think we still have some way to go. But certainly, what we have to carry to Parliament on Thursday is an improved bill,” he told listeners to his weekly radio programme on Monday.
Eustace said that over the past weeks his New Democratic Party has been concentrating on violence again women in all its forms.
He noted that the new piece of legislation has been in the making for more than seven years and is expected to be approved by all the legislatures in the nine-member Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, of which St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a member.
“There are a couple of things that I like in particular about the bill. One is that it adds other charges, like economic abuse and so forth like that to the charges that one can face in the Family Court,” he said.
Eustace, who was speaking after a select committee of Parliament meeting that discussed the bill, said that the new legislation “provides for affidavits to be done”.
“You know you can just go to the Family Court and get your case dealt with, but, in this case, in this bill, you have to file affidavits, which means you are going to have to get a lawyer.
“And we have made a case there in the select committee that some legal services should be provided to assists persons who want to come to the family court and have the need to have affidavits. And provision is there now for some legal help to be given to those persons who want to bring cases in the Family Court,” Eustace said.
He said he thinks there were also some other significant amendments made at the select committee stage.
“But we do have a very significant problem. … when we had our seminar a couple weeks ago — we gave you the figures for rape and a number of areas, and this bill seeks to address a number of them and expand the scope of the legal framework in which these matters will now be dealt with. So, I am looking forward to the passage of that piece of legislation,” Eustace said.
He told the NDP’s “Conversation with Women” in March that “A collective sense of shame and outrage blanketed this nation when a 2007 United Nations report ranked St. Vincent and the Grenadines 3rd in the world for rape.”
He further said that according to Yasmin Solitahe Odlum of the Inter-American Commission, SVG ranks highest in the OECS for the number of reported cases of rape in the period 2000 to 2010, with 802 reported cases, while Antigua and Barbuda ranked second in the OECS with 569 cases.