Over 40 proposed amendments to Domestic Violence Act submitted to Human Services Minister

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Minister of Human Services and Social Security Dr. Vindhya Persaud received reports of recommendations to update the Domestic Violence Act and new and emerging forms of violence -family violence following a legislative analysis of the 1996 Act and research under the EU-UN that is spearheaded by the Ministry of Human Services spearheaded Spotlight Initiative.

These recommendations and reports  were crafted by consultants  Rawle Small and Attorney- at –Law Rosemary Benjamin-Noble who were engaged through the Spotlight Initiative, after numerous key informant interviews undertaken over the last 4 months with stakeholders including 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 relating to newer forms of violence the need to increase the category of persons eligible to apply for protection orders.

Minister Vindhya Persaud and Spotlight Liaison Officer Anuradha Persaud engaged in extensive discussions with the consultants on their reports. Minister Persaud in acknowledging the impact of the newer forms of violence said that 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 modernizing legislation and policies and ultimately strengthening systems.

Ms. Noble – Benjamin 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 this 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 Government of Guyana is focused on tackling the scourge of Domestic violence at all levels.

The discussions concluded with the Minister reaffirming her commitment to continue engagement with all relevant stakeholders on these recommendations on the Domestic Violence Act under Pillar 1 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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