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Regional Association Praises Government for Enacting Domestic Violence Bill in Parliament

The Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action (CAFRA) has come out in high praise of the action taken by the Government of Saint Lucia in enacting the Domestic Violence Bill in Parliament this week.

Women outside parliament Tuesday afternoon pleased with the passage of the Domestic Violence Bill that day in the Lower House.
Women outside parliament Tuesday afternoon pleased with the passage of the Domestic Violence Bill that day in the Lower House.

Describing the bill as “one of the most progressive domestic violence laws in the region” CAFRA representatives in Saint Lucia said that “this impressive piece of legislation is ultra modern and covers all areas of violence as well as all potential victims.  It could not have been done at a more appropriate time, on International Women’s Day, as women are predominantly the victims of domestic violence.”

The Association is of the view that like most countries around the world, domestic violence is pervasive and the social and economic cost of this scourge seriously undermines social and economic stability on a national scale.

According to the Association, the importance of seriously addressing domestic violence via legislation was a cause for celebration and the women of St. Lucia did make their presence and appreciation felt on Tuesday March 8th, when the bill was tabled, debated and passed both  in the Lower House and the Senate this week.

The legislation covers the broad range of possible relationships and genders between victims and their abusers as well as the different areas in which domestic violence is triggered.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals include a specific target to “eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls in the public and private spheres” and the new Domestic Violence legislation is a step in the right direction, noted the Association in a brief statement.

“Interestingly, it has taken more than twenty years of lobbying, advocacy and activism, to get to this point, and this shows that relentless pursuit of change is possible.  During this period, organizations such as CAFRA in St. Lucia and more recently, the Raise Your Voice group, have kept the issue of Domestic Violence alive, through non-stop advocacy and action.  It was therefore a real pleasure to see representatives of those groups showing their support by making their presence felt in Parliament on March 8th,” CAFRA noted in its statement.

CAFRA also provided refreshments for the women who stayed outside of Parliament for the entire day, until the tabling and passage of the Bill, which was done late afternoon.  No effort was spared by the group to heighten the celebration as champagne and more were served right after the conclusion of debate and enactment.

“This is a very momentous occasion and when we heard about it on the news, we had very little time to mobilize, but we are here to celebrate all those years of hard work,” said Ms. Trecia Haynes, National Representative for CAFRA.

She explained that there was great hope for consideration of a new bill in 2016, but as usual, nothing happened.

“After 2016, CAFRA and members of ASPIRE (Advocates for Safe Parenting;Improving Reproductive Equity) hosted an amazing regional project called DECIDES Caribbean, which placed the issue right back on the table.  The project consisted of research, training workshops both locally and regionally, as well as national consultations which brought together all key agencies.  In Saint Lucia we brought together representatives from the Judiciary, the Family Court, the Women’s Support Shelter, the Police, Women’s NGOs working on the issue, representatives of the LGBT community and first responders.  The recommendations from those consultations were submitted for consideration,” Haynes said.

“We are very grateful to the Government of St. Lucia. This is very significant for us and shows that this government, although only some months in office, is serious about tackling head on, the kind of social issues which need to be addressed.  I cannot tell you how happy I am to see this progressive Domestic Violence Bill a reality,” said Senior and Executive Member of CAFRA Saint Lucia Ms. Flavia Cherry, who was present at Tuesday’s gathering outside parliament.

Ms. Cherry pointed out that the legislation is significantly strengthened and is in keeping with the times, because it addresses cyber stalking, psychological abuse, coercion, molestation, forced confinement, economic abuse, stalking etc.

“The new bill also takes into consideration the fact that relationships are non homogenous and must include all domestic unions.  Another major plus is the fact that the role of the police is strengthened, so that they can more effectively press charges and arrest perpetrators, including upholding of restraining orders,” Cherry said.

She noted that in the past there were serious challenges in relation to effective intervention and CAFRA had implemented a very wide ranging regional training program, which trained police officers and social workers.

All the Women present outside of Parliament Tuesday echoed their pleasure about the new bill. “It was a joy to see women from all walks of life and from different organizations celebrating together,” Cherry said.

Ms. Marina Brice of ASPIRE also stated that “The last Gender Minister, Dr. Gale Rigobert, should also be commended for her efforts and she should have been invited to witness the passage of the bill through the Lower House of Parliament because she played a significant role in bringing the bill to an advanced stage.  On such a special day, all major players over the years should have been accorded some level of appreciation and recognition for their efforts.”

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