Legislation on the cards to tackle domestic, sexual violence – Attorney General
A slew of legislation will be laid before the National Assembly in 2022, to address domestic and sexual violence.
This was disclosed Friday, by Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs Mohabir Anil Nandlall, SC, as he commissioned several domestic violence interview and virtual hearing rooms in the East Berbice-Corentyne and Mahaica- Berbice regions.
Rooms were commissioned at the New Amsterdam, Weldaad, Blairmont, Whim, Reliance, Springlands and No. 51 Magistrates Courts. The initiative is a collaboration between the Supreme Court of Guyana and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF.)
The Attorney General said government is committed to stamping out domestic violence which it has recognised to be a destructive social problem. He said the administration will continue to explore new initiatives that will have a curative effect on domestic violence.
“Speaking from the position of legislation, I can indicate here that in the year 2022 the Domestic Violence Act will undergo a complete overhaul,” the minister disclosed.
“Revamping the Domestic Violence Act would be a small measure only, but that will be done. A new Trafficking in Persons Act will also be tabled shortly in the National Assembly. Our Sexual Offences Act will be subjected to an overhaul in 2022. A Restorative Justice Bill will be tabled in the National Assembly very shortly in 2022,” the Attorney General stated.
Minister Nandlall said that restorative justice will address the root cause of problems and will be influenced by rehabilitative and reformative factors rather than punitive sentiments.
The legal affairs minister said government will also table a sexual harassment law and will strengthen the country’s anti-discriminatory laws.
Further, the legal affairs ministry in collaboration with the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, will be launching a unit that will offer a range of services targeting domestic and sexual violence victims. The unit will provide 24-hour medical, legal and counselling services, among others.
Chancellor of the Judiciary (ag) Justice Yonette Cummings-Edwards said the court is aware of the experiences victims encounter on a daily basis. With that, the Chancellor noted that staff of the courts have been trained to understand the situations of victims and handle them.
“We are seeking to have a hospitable court environment for both the complainant and the defendant, as fairness must be to both parties. Our room which you will see caters for the victim or witnesses to give their testimonies away from the glare of the alleged perpetrators or defendant,” the Chancellor said.
Justice Cummings-Edwards said when victims choose to come forward, the system must not re-traumatise them. “When victims come to court, we must ensure that their matters are dealt with and that their matters are given priority.”
Meanwhile, UNICEF’s Child Protection Specialist Patricia Gittens described the commissioning of the rooms as a victory for the prevention and response to violence in Guyana.
“Each time UNICEF contributes however small, to giving children a chance to grow up in a happier healthier life, it contributes to removing some of the seeds of tension, future violence and ending the desperate need to end intergenerational trauma. This will mean better outcome for Guyana’s economy and a better outcome for health and education,” Gittens said.
Chief Magistrate, Her Worship Ann McLennan and Chief Justice (ag) Roxanne George were also present for the commissioning ceremonies.