P.M. Among Those Advocating Tougher Stand Against Offenders.
THE frequency of rape incidents occurring in Saint Lucia has drawn the attention of Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony and a group calling itself “Raise Your Voice St. Lucia Inc.” both of whom are calling for stronger measures to be taken against perpetrators.
Now the Prime Minister is suggesting that a serious look be taken at a suggestion made months ago for the establishment of a sex offenders list here. But he however warned against its creation in an ad hoc manner.
“It is clear that strong laws with stiff penalties are not enough. We have to look for other solutions,” Dr. Anthony said, adding that Saint Lucia must look at the experience of other countries that have established sex offenders’ lists.
The Prime Minister called for a review of how rapes are evidenced in a court of law, adding that it was not right for a rape victim to undergo trauma in giving evidence before a judge and jury.
The Prime Minister in fact questioned whether rape cases should be heard before a jury noting that giving evidence is a dehumanizing and traumatic experience.
It seems almost every week that the story of a rape or attempted rape incident is being reported, acts ‘Raise Your Voice’ described as horrific, deliberate and calculated to bring fear to the country’s female population due in part to their frequency and gruesome nature.
The latest of such reports detailed a middle aged woman fighting off her male attacker in the process trying to talk him out of committing the act, which fortunately he did not, thanks to some people who appeared on the scene.
Other reports as of last week detail a young woman violated in the presence of her infant child and the kidnapping and rape of a young woman all of which had renewed concerns about continuing violence towards women in Saint Lucia regardless of their age, culture, race or class.
“Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia Inc. unequivocally condemns these violent acts. It is clear that violence against women knows no class or cultural boundaries and much work remains to be done.
“We strongly urge all stakeholders i.e. the Media, RSLPF, Department of Human Services & Gender Relations, Women Support Shelter, Saint Lucia Red Cross Society, Saint Lucia Crisis Centre and all NGO’s and religious institutions to step-up and condemn this behaviour and stand firm with women in their struggles to end violence.
“Although there have been some responses from community and country leaders condemning this form of violence, these attacks require a more comprehensive response. We all need to speak out against male violence and publicly condemn violence against women and hold men accountable,” the group noted in a statement Tuesday.
However yesterday, the Prime Minister said that he will ensure that the Police Force implements a suggestion coming from him which is that a dedicated unit be established within the Force to investigate rapes and bring to justice those responsible for such crimes.
Meanwhile, the recently launched advocacy group Speak Out St. Lucia (S.O.S.) while welcoming the Prime Minister’s statement, noted that many similar acknowledgements had been made by the authorities over the past decades “with little to no resolution”.
Said Norbert Williams, the group’s Communications Officer: “Speak Out St. Lucia contends that a proper functioning judicial system is critical to enable any consultations and recommendations, enforcement, and application of the law to be successful. Of vital importance to the prosecution of sex crimes is the timely processing of DNA and other evidence which would lead to speedy trials and resolution of cases. The island has a Forensics Laboratory which needs to be properly staffed and resourced in order to solidify the adoption of any short and long term measures to stem this epidemic.
“Speak Out St. Lucia believes that any action against sex crimes will require more than government or law enforcement participation, therefore Speak Out St. Lucia calls for the development of a national strategy which speaks to a comprehensive approach in dealing with the issues. This includes, but is not limited to, collaboration between key sector agencies; psychological and counselling services to victims; public sensitization; protection for victims and witnesses; and the need for the creation of a safe and confidential environment where victims as well as non-victims feel safe to report these crimes”.
The group said it was willing to assist with this endeavour “as we collectively battle the scourge of rape, child molestation and other sexual crimes affecting our nation”.
It added: “We cannot continue paying lip-service to this issue, but rather must take decisive action which will illustrate our commitment to eliminating sex crimes in Saint Lucia. We have reached the brink of a national emergency. Rape does not discriminate”.