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16 ways activism can end GBV
At the forum held on Friday, in collaboration with the Institute for Gender and Development Studies, and to kick off 16 Days of Activism to End Gender Based Violence, the Equal Opportunity Commission proposed changes to the Domestic Violence Act (Chp 45:56).
Ten of them are listed below:
1. Remove the perpetrator from the home not the victim. Moving women to a shelter can derail children and women’s lives. What happens when their time at the shelter runs out? Some women return home to the abuse.
2. Police must respond to all complaints. There are no penalties if police do not respond to all complaints. There are many stories of women who call for police help, but who wait in vain for them to come.
Additionally, there should be a protocol for responding to all complaints. For example, a record should be made even if a woman is simply asking for police to warn her partner and isn’t yet ready for a charge to be laid or for a protection order.
3. Amend definition of cohabitant to include same-sex relationships. Violence exists across relationships of different kinds, and all citizens have a right to violence-free homes.
4. Police must charge for assaults and other crimes committed in domestic situations, and for breaches of Protection Order. When a woman goes to the police to report bruises from domestic violence, the police can charge perpetrators for assault, and begin criminal proceedings. What normally happens, however, is that police send women to a Justice of the Peace to begin her application for a protection order. Assault is assault and charges should be laid. Additionally, breaches of a Protection Order are a crime.
5. No bail for persons charged with breaches of Protection Order. Given the many women killed while holding protection orders, there is impunity for men who can breach them, can secure bail, and then return to get revenge on women.
6. Provide a network of support to persons who have a protection order—observers must have a duty to report. When a woman is killed, neighbours, family and employers can recall years, months or weeks of threats. A duty to report will help build a culture of everyone insisting domestic violence cannot happen on our corner.
7. Create intervention for perpetrators threatening to kill. When threats to women’s lives are made, what can they do? An intervention for perpetrators threatening to kill means that they will be held by police, receive counselling and other forms of intervention.
8. Create inter agency protocols between police, magistrates, prosecutors, social workers and shelters. Right now, this isn’t sufficiently structured or practised.
9. Create mandatory programmes for victims and perpetrators. Mandatory counselling, over months, can make a difference to whole families, and should be part of the response to the approximately ten thousand applications for restraining orders requested yearly.
10. Resuscitate Police Domestic Violence Register maintained by the Commissioner of Police. This registry is mandated by the Domestic Violence Act, but isn’t functional, digitised, well sourced with data or referred to in either civil or criminal proceedings.
Those at the forum also proposed six necessary changes:
11. Use the form provided by the DV Act to record reports of the domestic violence. This thorough form is not used consistently by police and legally needs to be as part of meeting the requirements of a National Domestic Violence Register.
12. There should not be a 12-month requirement to be able to secure a protection order. These must be able to be triggered by one act of violence regardless of how long relationship is going on. This is particularly important for young women, who have a higher risk of violence, and may be in shorter-term relationships.
13. A Victim and Witness Support Unit in Tobago. Establish it now.
14. The justice system must inform victims if perpetrators get bail. They cannot be calling around to find out whether their lives have returned to being at risk.
15. The National Strategic Plan on Gender-Based and Sexual Violence which has been sitting in front of Cabinet since 2016 must be approved and resourced.
16. End jurisdiction issues for reporting domestic violence. Victims report police officers refusing to take reports when they are friendly with the men involved, and police officers refusing to take reports when it is out of their jurisdiction.
These 16 days, lend your support to activism on 16 ways to help end GBV.
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