'We must expose the brutes'

Grange promises more action to reduce violence against women, children

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, November 08, 2018

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MINISTER of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange on Tuesday revealed several ministry initiatives against violence, especially acts involving women and children.

Grange said that the violence has been “heartless, callous, horrific, and brutal, and are causing our women and children to worry”.

“We must expose the brutes, help the security forces to find them, and provide the evidence for our courts to put them away,” the minister added.

She urged colleagues in Parliament not to be complacent, but to restate their commitment to eliminating violence against women and children, and redouble their efforts to create a safer world for everyone.

Grange also announced several initiatives in which her ministry is involved, including the development of a national strategic action plan for the elimination of gender-based violence.

She said that the ministry has already begun to implement the 10-year plan, which represents an action-focused approach across all of government toward eliminating all gender-based violence.

She added that, this year's national activities to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, on November 25, will target key stakeholders towards the implementation of the action plan to eliminate gender-based violence.

“We will use this observance to undertake significant outreach activities in communities that are associated with high levels of violence,” she said.

The joint select committee, which was reviewing laws relating to violence against women, children and the elderly, as well as people living with disabilities, is also to be reconvened to prepare a report including recommendations to be laid on the table of Parliament in short order, she said.

She noted that the ministry has been finalising proposals for a Prevention of Sexual Harassment Bill, which will be tabled in the House very soon.

“It is a very serious crime that militates against the desired level of peace, harmony and happiness in our country, and I look forward to our debate in this House and us providing protection to all women, and men, from unwanted sexual advances, requests for sexual favours and crude sexual behaviours that effect quality of life by creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive environment,” Grange said.

However, she cautioned that legislation would only become deterrents to acts of violence, if people believe they will be enforced.

“People who like to abuse women and children will only think again, if they know that they will be caught and punished,” she argued.

“It is one thing for us to have harsh penalties for gender violence, but to punish the perpetrators we need convictions, and that requires people speaking up,” she stated.

Opposition spokesman on finance, Mark Golding, who was minister of justice in the previous administration and chaired the joint select committee which reviewed some of the laws addressing violence against women and children, although welcoming the attention drawn to the issues by the minister, criticised the Government for inaction in following up on the work done previously.

He said that the previous government had started work on amending at least two important pieces of social legislation – the Criminal Justice Administration Act and the Child Care and Protection Act – which would have introduced integrated penalties for any act of violence against women or children.

He said, however, that while those Bills were introduced in December, 2015 the select committees were resolved by February 2016, to accommodate the general election, and since then the legislative processes have not been completed and they have not been passed.

“We are now in the third year of the life of this administration, and those Bills have not been revived… We have had no legislative change whatsoever for the protection of women and children since this Government came into office and, for my part, I think it is a crying shame,” Golding said.

But, both Grange and Justice Minister Delroy Chuck responded by assuring Parliament that action was indeed being taken quietly, to have the legislations prepared for debate in Parliament.

Grange said that everything was now ready for tabling the newly revised and long-delayed Sexual Harassment Bill.

“We are now ready, everything is now signed up on and it will be going to the legislative committee (of the Cabinet), and we will be taking the legislation here very soon,” she assured the House.

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