Advocacy group notes startling increase in reported gender-based violence

PRESS RELEASE – THE local advocacy group, Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia Inc, has asserted that there has been a startling increase here in gender based violence.

According to the organisation, for the Period 2013/15 the Division of Human Services reported eight hundred and twelve cases (812) cases of child abuse, categorised as physical abuse, verbal/psychological abuse, sexual abuse and abandonment/neglect.

It said that for the period 2013 to 2014 & 2016 the Family Court reported a total of one thousand and thirty (1039) nine cases of domestic violence.

Figures for 2015 were not available, according to Raise Your Voice.

In a release Thursday, the advocacy group observed that for the period 2015, the Vulnerable Persons Unit of the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force recorded 112 cases of sexual assault/rape and 52 cases of domestic violence.

“In 2016 the department recorded 250 cases of this total 36 were domestic violence and 214 were sexual assault and rape. For the period 2013/16 the Women Support Shelter recorded a total of 1076 domestic violence crisis calls, there was a marked increase in 2016 reflecting a total of 435 crisis calls,” the organisation said.

“These statistics show a startling and persistent increase in gender based violence, we believe public education and awareness, increased resources (human, training and capacity building) to social services agencies is critical to minimize the high rate of gender based violence,” Thursday’s Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia statement asserted.

The statement observed that coupled with these challenges critical legislation to provide a more equitable environment and minimize legal victimisation of women and children have been pending for 13 long years.

“We continue to call on the Government of Saint Lucia to enact the OECS Family Law Bills which includes Child Justice Bill – Enacted, Children (Care and Adoption) Bill – Enacted, Domestic Violence Bill – outstanding, Status of Children Bill – outstanding, Status of Parenting Testing Procedures and Regulations – outstanding,” it stated.

Raise Your Voice said that without the enactment of the remainder of the OECS Family Law Bills, critical international conventions such as Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) cannot be locally utilised.

It also called for necessary to amend several pieces of legislation to provide an equitable playing field for women in common law relationships and children conceived in common law relationships.

They included:Amendment of the Civil Code as regards (1) succession laws (2) removal of references to illegitimate and legitimate children to achieve parity among all children, Amendment of Affiliation Act to make child support dependent on a means test and not the stipulated $200.00 and Amendments to the criminal code which criminalises same sex relationships between consenting adults.

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