House passes Bill to amend Domestic Violence Act
KINGSTON, Jamaica— A Bill to amend the Domestic Violence Act was passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange, concluded the debate in the Lower House, where she underscored that the Bill is indicative of the Government’s position on citizens’ security and safety.
“Today we have traversed the landscape of justice and societal evolution with a view to making a difference in the lives of our sisters and brothers who are affected by the scourge of domestic violence. It’s in high places as well, as it is at the grassroot level, and we must be mindful of how we conduct ourselves and how we ensure that those around us do not abuse our girls, boys, women and men,” she said.
Minister Grange pointed out that the changes to the Act were shaped by the wisdom of the members of a Joint Select Committee, which was established in 2016 and reported in 2017.
The revisions include Clause Two, which amends Section Three of the Act, and provides information on the individuals who can make an application for a Protection Order under the legislation. They include the spouse or parent of an individual in respect of whom the conduct has been made or is likely to be made.
Additionally, a constable, a person approved by the minister responsible for social work and the Children’s Advocate can also make an order on behalf of a child.
Clause Three of the Bill amends Section Four of the principal Act by deleting Subsection One and replacing it with provisions to prohibit certain actions that may affect the victims of domestic violence.
The Bill has also been amended to provide for increased penalties. The fine for breaching Protective Orders moved from $10,000 to $1 million, and imprisonment of up to one year.
Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security, Juliet Cuthbert-Flynn, in her comments, welcomed the amendments, which she deemed urgent.
“I am very happy that the minister has brought these urgent amendments forward. I’m particularly happy about the fines. For too long we’ve seen so many of our legislation still on the books with a meagre fine; and so people look at us as if we are not taking, as legislators, the seriousness of what is happening in our country,” she indicated.
A Joint Select Committee, chaired by Minister Grange, was also established to do a full review of the Act.
Other members include Minister of Legal and Constitutional Affairs, Marlene Malahoo-Forte, and fellow parliamentarians – Dr Michelle Charles, Tamika Davis, Dwight Sibblies, Denise Daley and Dr Angela Brown-Burke.