Human Services Minister receives Legislative analysis of 1996 Domestic Violence Act, report on newer forms of violence

Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud last Tuesday, received reports of recommendations to update the Domestic Violence Act and new and emerging forms of violence following a legislative analysis of the 1996 Act, and research under the EU-UN spearheaded by her ministry’s Spotlight Initiative.

The recommendations and reports were crafted by consultants Rawle Small and Attorney- at –Law Rosemary Benjamin-Noble, who were engaged by the spotlight Initiative, following a number of key informant interviews over the last four months.  Participating in the interviews were the Judiciary, magistracy, Guyana Police Force, Child Care and Protection Agency, CSOs, Ministry of Amerindian Affairs, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Health, DPP, University of Guyana, survivors, perpetrators, and Regional Executive Officers.  

Mr. Small’s report proposed the need to expand the current Domestic Violence Act to include family Violence in recognition of the existing gaps related to newer forms of violence and the need to increase the category of persons eligible to apply for protection orders.

Minister Persaud and Spotlight Liaison Officer, Anuradha Persaud, held extensive discussions with the consultants on their reports.  Acknowledging the impact of the newer forms of violence, Minister Persaud said this type of research under the spotlight Initiative, which focuses heavily on identifying mechanisms to tackle domestic violence is one of the key elements in modernising legislation and policies and ultimately strengthening systems.

Attorney, Rosemary Ms. Noble – Benjamin who carried out the analysis, presented over forty (40) proposed amendments to the current Domestic Violence Act including expansion of the definitions of ‘domestic violence’; inclusion of more comprehensive definitions 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.

Minister Persaud made several important suggestions in the discussions on the proposed recommendations and cited the analysis as a good foundation to having expanded discussions and advancing the process. The Minister also recognised that amending the law would impact on other laws including the Evidence, Custody, Contact, Guardianship and Maintenance Acts to give full effect to the proposed recommendations. She committed to engaging the Attorney-General’s Chambers as the next step as the Government of Guyana is focused on tackling the scourge of Domestic violence at all levels.

The discussions concluded with the Honourable Minister reaffirming her commitment to continue engagement with all relevant stakeholders on these recommendations on the Domestic Violence Act under Pillar one of the UN-EU Spotlight Initiative. This is part of series of countrywide initiatives Minister Persaud has been engaged in through the spotlight initiative and under the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security in  addressing the serious issue of domestic violence in Guyana. 

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