New domestic violence Bill to include psychological, emotional abuseThursday, June 10, 2021
BY BALFORD HENRY
Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport Olivia Grange says changes coming to the Domestic Violence Act, which will include a new definition of domestic violence.
Grange told the House of Representatives, in her sectoral debate presentation Tuesday, that the new definition of domestic violence will not only be about physical violence, but also psychological, emotional and sexual violence.
“The effect of this important update will mean that for the first time, men or women who control their partners through threats, or by restricting their personal or financial freedom could face sanctions in the same way as those who are physically violent towards them,” the minister said.
“We will also widen the threshold to be met in obtaining protection orders from the court, to give greater protection to those who need the orders to keep abusers away,” she added.
Grange said the penalty for breach in the protection order under the amended Act will move from $10,000 to $1,000,000.
“We are serious about ending domestic violence. The chief parliamentary counsel is preparing the amendments, which I expect to bring to this House before the end of June,” she said.
On Tuesday, she also tabled the report of the joint select committee (JSC) which was established to consider the Sexual Harassment Bill in the House of Representatives.
“The report contains our recommendations following extensive consultations. When this Bill becomes the law, it will deal a blow to sexual harassment by bringing relief to victims, punishment to perpetrators, while acting as a deterrent to others,” she said.
“We know that members of the public are eager for the finalisation and implementation of anti-sexual harassment legislation. Therefore, I propose to begin the debate on the report and the amendments at the next sitting of the House,” she stated.
“We anticipate that the passage of the anti-sexual harassment legislation and the amended Domestic Violence Act will lead to an increase in the reports of cases of abuse as victims who are now suffering in silence will be emboldened to make a complaint. I urge us, as a nation, to consider how we treat with any person who says that he/she has been a victim,” she added.
Grange, who also chaired the Sexual Harassment Bill's JSC, noted that there are instances that require great sensitivity, and as the examination of the claims and counter claims, in addition to legislative action, they will also be strengthening policy initiatives, to give greater protection to vulnerable women.
She noted that in 2020/21, the Government opened the first national shelter for victims of gender-based violence.
“In this financial year we continue work towards the opening of two regional shelters. We are also improving our helpline services to women and men who need assistance. We've recently received a toll-free number from Flow and we have recruited helpline specialists to ensure that the lines will be manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” she said.
She said that the ministry not only responds to domestic abuse after it has already happened, but focus on prevention through its sensitisation programmes that target both women and men, including the #MentorMe2020 Mentorship Programme for school-age boys, which is being piloted at Haile Selassie High and St Andrew Technical High.
“This year we will also strengthen the Refocus Intervention programme that targets perpetrators of domestic violence who wish to change their behaviour,” she said.
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