Gov’t intensifies legal focus on sexual offences, harassment & domestic violence

… New legislation possible by year-end

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As part of efforts to counter the scourge of harassment and violence locally, the government has been working on key legislative amendments to the Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences Acts.

New harassment legislation is also being crafted, Human Services Minister Dr. Vindhya Persaud told reporters at the sidelines of an event on Monday.

Minister Persaud, while responding to concerns about several violent murders, said that her ministry has been working assiduously with local, regional and international partners to prevent those unfortunate occurrences.

Through those engagements, several initiatives- be it training for the Guyana Police Force, providing more institutional support for survivors of violence, or launching new reporting mechanisms and hotlines- have been crafted.

But Minister Persaud said that legislative change is also crucial. As such, she said that amendments to existing laws or crafting new laws are a key focus.

Within days, she said the first draft of the amendments to the 1996 Domestic Violence Act will be disseminated for public review and input.

Minister of Human Services and Social Security Dr Vindhya Persaud (Photo: MHSSS/June 12, 2022)

Based on a legal analysis of the 1996 Act, researchers had presented more than 40 proposed amendments several months ago. These proposed amendments include the need to expand the current Domestic Violence Act to include expansion of the definitions of domestic violence; including 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.

And on Monday, the minister said once the public consultations are concluded, the ministry will continue working on this legislation to finality.

Meanwhile, she said that the Ministry of Legal Affairs has been reviewing the 2010 Sexual Offences Act.

“We are also looking at crafting a harassment legislation,” the Minister announced too.

This new law is expected to add to provisions in the existing Prevention of Discrimination Act.

Altogether, these pieces of legislation are expected to provide greater support and protection for people in Guyana.

Asked when these new laws would be presented to the National Assembly, Minister Persaud said that they should be presented before year-end or early next year.

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