‘Progressive’ Family Violence Bill to remedy gaps in domestic violence laws

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A new draft “progressive” Family Violence Bill seeks to address shortcomings in the current domestic violence laws and implement “necessary” measures to tackle and eventually end Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Guyana.

The new Bill, drafted by the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, will redefine interpersonal relationships, adjust powers ascribed to the police and to the courts, and implement new punitive measures for perpetrators.

Consultations on the Family Violence Bill will be held during the Ministry’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence on November 29 at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara and during a virtual town hall on December 6.

“These may seem like harsh moves but I think at this point they’re necessary,” Minister of Human Services and Social Security Dr. Vindhya Persaud told the News Room during an exclusive interview on Thursday.

For example, it is usually at the discretion of the police to pursue a report and a number of factors may influence this, including if the parties wish to reconcile. The new Bill, however, proposes that where certain criteria exists, that discretionary power can be removed.

“If there is obvious physical harm to the person demonstrated they [the police] have to go ahead, that discretionary power is removed,” Dr. Persaud said.

Additionally, some survivors might frequent the courts for redress but often end up in the same situation. The new Bill proposes discretionary powers for the courts to be able to take the matter further in these situations.

“They don’t have to wait for that person to necessarily give their permission to take it further,” Dr. Persaud explained.

The draft Bill also proposes new punitive measures and expanded the meaning of interpersonal relationships to include the extended family when it comes to prosecution so more people can be held accountable.

Dr. Persaud noted that the aim of the legislation is to be “comprehensive, progressive and modern” as it takes into account legislation from across the world, integrating best practices to Guyana’s perspectives. 

Currently, GBV is regulated by the Domestic Violence Act 1996 which affords protection by the granting of protection orders, and providing the police with powers of arrest but the new Bill seeks to rehaul that existing legislation.

In January, 2022, the Ministry 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.

Over 40 proposed amendments 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, were recommended.

Dr. Persaud noted that most of these proposed amendments were included in the draft Family Violence Bill as well as recommendations from non-governmental organisations (NGO), Faith Based Organizations (FBO) and the civil society.

“I would love for people to come and give their input, give their feedback. We’d like to hear their thoughts so when this is presented in Parliament, I would like to know that Guyana agrees,” Dr. Persaud said.

Dr. Persaud noted that the Family Violence Bill is drafted in conjunction with several pieces of legislation proposed by the government to tackle domestic violence and offer a rehabilitative approach.

1 Comment
  1. Derk says

    It is time for all and sundry to agree with such an initiative as in my view it would serve as a means to protect female by giving them control over their lives and importantly the courts can make the appropriate decisions.
    It is time has long gone for men to think that a woman is his property, or she is weaker and be treated in the most despicable manner.
    Come on ladies stand up for your rights and freedom do not allow yourselves to be manipulated by any man or woman.
    Congratulations to you Rt.Hon.Minister,Dr.V.Persaud.

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