Minister for the Public Service, Home Affairs, Labour and Gender Affairs, Dr. Virginia Albert-Poyotte, has announced that Saint Lucia will, on March 8, 2022, enact a domestic violence bill that will be ‘one of the most progressive’ in the region.
“I must emphasise further that this bill is one of the most progressive domestic violence bills in the region at this point,” she asserted.
“We compared the contents of our bill with what exists in other islands in the Caribbean and compared it with international standards,” the Minister told reporters.
“And for this we are proud to say that we are producing a bill that is one that the other countries and some other countries in the region will want to emulate,” the Babonneau MP explained.
She disclosed that the measure is so important that the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has expressed interest in sitting in parliament when the bill comes before the house to create a safe environment in the home and protect men, women, and children.
According to the Minister, the bill extends hitherto restricted terms to a small group and now leaves little room for specific individuals to maneuver and escape.
By way of example, she pointed to a broader definition of domestic violence.
“We have added new conduct to that. For example, we were talking about conduct that includes physical abuse, or threats of physical abuse. For example we talk of sexual abuse or even the threat is a form of abuse. Once you say you intend to do it we treat it as abuse and not when you actually commit the act,” Albert-Poyotte stated.
“We have verbal abuse. Persons believe it is only when you beat up somebody you talk of domestic violence. When you tell somebody something that is derogatory, you are damaging the person’s psyche and as a result that is a form of abuse,” she told reporters.
The Minister said the bill covers psychological abuse, coercion, molestation, which the child justice act already addresses, and arbitrary deprivation of liberty or forced confinement.
In addition, the proposed legislation speaks to economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, stalking, and cyber-stalking and asserts that there can be sexual abuse in a marital relationship.
Albert-Poyotte said the measure broadens also the way the police handle such matters.
She said domestic violence pertains to males and females and is not limited to violence against women.
However, the Minister pointed out that a lot more women are victims in domestic situations.
“So they stand to benefit a lot more from this legislation,” she declared.
She recalled that it had been 27 years since the Summary Proceedings Act, and times have changed.
“We got that legislation changed and in 2016 we arrived at a domestic violence bill and that is where it stalled. It never reached parliament. So that bill was further revised and then we came up with the proposed Domestic Violence Bill 2021,” Albert-Poyotte said.
Headline photo: Stock image courtesy Claudia Wolff