Tinkering with the issue: Golding says proposed amendments to Domestic Violence Act merely scratching the surface
KINGSTON, Jamaica- Opposition Leader Mark Golding has stated that the proposed amendments to the Domestic Violence Act that will see fines increased from $10,000 to $1 million and the custodial sentence moved from six months to one year, are merely “tinkering with this issue”.
Golding made the remarks recently as the Minister of Gender, Olivia Grange, opened the debate on a Bill to amend the Domestic Violence Act of 1996 in the House of Representatives. The fines and prison terms apply to individuals accused of breaching a protection order from the court in a domestic violence case.
The new penalties and the expanded list of individuals/institutions that can apply for a protection order were outlined by Grange in her opening remarks. However, Golding believes the proposed amendments are “merely scratching the surface”.
Describing the issues surrounding domestic violence in Jamaica as “complex” Golding noted that “what we have here …really is to my mind tinkering with this issue. We’re not addressing the fundamental challenges of domestic violence by this legislation,” he argued.
The Opposition leader pointed out that a joint select committee of the Parliament that was established to look at violence against women and children, examined four pieces of legislation – the Sexual Offences Act; the Offences Against The Person Act; the Child Care and Protection Act and the Domestic Violence Act. He said the Domestic Violence Act received relatively little attention because of the amount of time spent on the others and highlighted that the committee had called for a “general and broad review” of the (Domestic Violence) Act which was not possible at that time.
“I was actually hoping to hear from the minister that she would be appointing another joint select committee to focus specifically on domestic violence so that all stakeholders …who would look at what institutional arrangements need to be put in place to provide a more favourable, a more salutary, a more efficacious architecture and ecosystem for protecting victims of domestic violence and indeed reforming those who violate the rights of others in the domestic sphere,” said Golding.
Meanwhile, under the provisions of the amended legislation now before the Parliament, gun owners accused of domestic violence will have to hand over their weapons. Section 4, sub-section 1(b) will now direct the respondent to return property jointly or separately owned by the prescribed person that the respondent has in his or her possession or control, and hand over to the police any gun or other prohibited weapon in the respondent’s possession or control.
Clause 2 speaks to the individuals who can make an application for a protection order under the Act. They include the spouse or parent of an individual in respect of whom the conduct has been made or is likely to be made.
Where violence is used or is threatened against a child or dependent, an application can be made by a person with whom the child or dependent normally resides or resides on a regular basis, the parent or guardian of the child, or a dependent who is not mentally disabled. Additionally, a constable, a person approved by the minister for social work and the Children’s Advocate can also make an order on behalf of a child.
The application for an order can also be made by a member of the respondent’s household or one who is in a visiting relationship with the respondent.