Social Protection Ministry takes “no-nonsense” approach to sexual and domestic Violence

DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Raising awareness on the effects of sexual offences, gender-based violence and domestic violence is a critical focus for the Ministry of Social Protection, particularly the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Policy Unit (SO&DVPU).

Guyana, like the rest of the world, is observing 16 Days of Activism, which seeks to intensify awareness efforts on the dangers of sexual and other forms of violence.

Akilah Dorris, Manager – Sexual Offences & Domestic Violence Policy Unit.

Manager of the Unit, Akilah Dorris in an interview with the Department of Public Information (DPI), today, emphasised the Ministry’s “no-nonsense” approach to ensuring that survivors of these social ills are protected.

“We’ve been working throughout the year in terms of raising awareness about all sorts of social issues as it pertains to sexual offences, domestic violence, gender-based violence,” she noted.

The Unit Manager is calling on the media to liaise with Government agencies to get the facts and avoid sensationalising sexual offences and domestic violence cases, given the negative impact on survivors. According to Dorris, “We believe that the media needs to be responsible in their journalism. Also, in relating story, as it pertains to the identity of survivors of these horrible crimes, try to maintain the privacy of that person…We’ve seen quite often in the news when a survivor decides to break the silence, they seem to be re-victimised, they seem to be interrogated by the media…as if they are the ones on trial.”

In this vein, the Unit Manager highlighted the timeliness of the Sexual Offences Court and the approach of Government to prevent the occurrence of re-victimisation.

Guyana is the first in the Caribbean to have established a specialised court for sexual offences that is sensitive to the needs and circumstances of victims. The court will employ a ‘rights-based’ approach in recognition of the fact that victims tend to be re-victimised under the previous format.

Dorris added that paramount to the SO&DVPU’s intervention is maintaining the safety of survivors. “A support system is necessary to help them break the silence and I don’t mean necessarily a media frenzy …I am referring to that family support system to be with the survivor throughout the healing process, that’s important,” she noted.

Additionally, the Social Protection Ministry provides survivors’ support services which include psychosocial services, trauma counselling and once the matter is placed before the court, court support services. She explained that with the launching of the Sexual Offences court, a Victim Support Unit (VSU) was established within the Ministry of Social Protection, which comprises key Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) that focus on sexual offences matters. Its responsibility includes preparing the survivor for court proceedings, which entails preparation for the pre-trial proceedings and accompanying the survivor to court.

This support continues throughout the trial, however, Dorris made it clear that the VSU will in no way influence the survivor’s testimony, but it offers assurance that they are not alone.

She called for a change in attitude towards those persons who have endured sexual and other forms of violence. The Unit Manager said, “It is never the victim’s fault and we need to ensure that when we get our messages out there, our focus is on the perpetrator and the perpetrator must be held accountable for his or her actions.”

The 16 Days of Activism ends on International Human Rights Day on December 10 and is being held under the theme, ‘Leave no one behind, let’s collaborate to eradicate gender-based violence.’

 

By: Stacy Carmichael

 

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