This article originally appeared in www.sundominica.com July 22, 2016
Stiffer penalties for rape convicts and other indecent acts have been added to the Sexual Offences Amendment Bill of 2016. The Draft Bill was uploaded to government's website on July 8, 2016.
A stiffer penalty is also recommended for a person who is found guilty of gross indecency. In the 1998 Act the penalty was imprisonment for five years."
However, in the new Bill the penalty has been increased to 12 years if the complainant is a person of 16 years of age or more.
It also suggests that if the complainant is a minor under the age of 16 years of age, the convict gets 14 years in jail for a first offence and to imprisonment for 25 years for a subsequent offence.
In the new Bill amendments were added to buggery section of the proposed amendment.
In the Act of 1998 an individual was liable on conviction to imprisonment for 25 years, if committed by an adult on a minor and ten years if committed by an adult on another adult.
The Act also includes imprisonment for five years, if committed by a minor. However, the new Bill contains additions to the last subsection of the section on buggery.
The Bill states: "If the complainant is 14 years of age or more but has not attained the age of 16 years, the convicted minor is liable on conviction to 12 years imprisonment."
Child rights advocate happy with proposed amendment to the Sexual Offences ActTina Alexander, the executive director of Lifeline Ministries says she is pleased with the proposed amendments to the Sexual Offences Act uploaded to the Government's website on July 8, 2016 and scheduled to be debated in parliament before the end of 2016.
"Having seen the Sexual Offences Act Amendment Bill … I was delighted to see that many of the issues that we at Lifeline have been highlighting are addressed, along with those championed by our civil society colleagues", said Alexander in an exclusive interview with the SUN.
She is particularly pleased that an option of sentencing for life will be available to the judiciary for the most heinous rape crimes.
Alexander noted that life imprisonment will be appropriate for instances where rape occur with small children, elderly women, pregnant women and those with profound disability.
"I was also pleased to see that there was recognition of the need to keep reoffenders away from society for good. Most paedophiles reoffend again and again and currently in our Prison Service we do not even have one counsellor for the hundreds of inmates…Repentance is the first step towards reform and I rarely see it," she said.
Alexander added that the Coalition is delighted that mandatory reporting is part of the Bill and will ensure that Dominica can change from a society that covers crime to one that tackles the issue head on.
Alexander added that the issue of marital rape was presented for consideration by the Caribbean Male Action Network (CARIMAN) and that is included in the proposed law.
"This Bill reads very well. I have never understood how people could see that the 'for better for worse' clause in the marriage ceremony could be used to justify the view that the wife has given consent 24/7 for life," she said.
She said no one should be forced to have sex with another person regardless of the relation between the two people.
Alexander stated that the fact that the bill also mentions women forcing men to have sex reflects the world today.
She said that whilst the vast majority of perpetrators of sexual abuse and assault are men, women also abuse both children and adults.
Alexander said that another area included in the Bill that she is pleased with is that of 'sexting' and taking pictures of people engaged in sexual activity without their consent.
"Online porn is a huge problem. It is not a compliment to send someone a picture of your genitals. There are many people indulging in this kind of behaviour and they are not just teenagers, but adults who should know better," she said.
She said parliamentarians have an opportunity to make a strong statement for protecting children and youth in Dominica by passing the Bill.
Alexander said that she looks forward to the day when the police and Director of Public Prosecution office have rape kits and a DNA bank so that there will not be a need to depend on the child victim to identify the accused.
"We are calling for the introduction of a family division in the High Court equipped with cameras and one-way mirrors and videoed professional disclosure interviews admitted as evidence. This requires more legislative change but if it can happen once it can happen again," she said.
The Victim Supporters Graduation was followed by an informal Solidarity Concert with contributions from Ras Mo (song/poetry), Michelle Belle (Poetry), Martin Alexander (song) Aaron Hamilton (song & poetry) Vinlyz Dailey (poetry) Miriam Alexander (poetry) Verlana Williams (poetry) Jade Leatham (song) Irma Joseph (Poetry). The concert was effectively chaired by a member of the Lifeline Teen Support Group.
Here is my daughters cover of Body Love Mary Lambert.
" Survivors of Sexual Abuse graduate as Victim Supporters"
On Wednesday 6th July 2016, seventeen (17) women and one (1) man "graduated" from the fourth Victim Support Training Course run by Social Worker and counsellor, Tina Alexander of Lifeline Ministries in collaboration with the Dominica Police Force. This brings the total number of those trained over the past three years to seventy (70).
"We are very grateful to the British High Commission and the British taxpayer by extension, for the ongoing funding of our programmes" said Mrs. Alexander following a message of support by video from the Deputy Head of Mission in Bridgetown Mr Colin Dick. (available from email@example.com)
She continued "We heard from the Minister for DFID, Baroness Verma, about the British Government's concern for victims of gender based violence across the world, when she was here recently to confirm the road project they are funding."
The Baroness also sent a videoed solidarity message (available at: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8mjosL6ucd7WWlGTElST1Z1SmM -- in which she called for the prompt debating of the Sexual Offences Amendment Bill which should mean stiffer sentencing for sexual offenders and a broader definition of offences including those committed through the internet.
The course began on the 19th June 2016 and the sessions were held at the Police Conference Room and included sessions on the existing Sexual Offences Act, the traumatizing investigation process, including medical examination, confrontation and cross examination of witnesses by defense lawyers in the preliminary inquiry in the Magistrates court, the intimidating High Court proceedings which include child witnesses, barely able to see out of the witness box, being interrogated by aggressive attorneys, the danger of psychological consequences of keeping ugly secrets and the need to recognize suicidal feelings and ideas.
Keynote speaker at the Graduation Ceremony, Director of Public Prosecutions, Ms Evalina Baptiste, stated her personal commitment to the concept of victim support and agreed that a Victim Support Unit attached to the DPPs office would be a great help in supporting the many many vulnerable witnesses facing the challenge of harrowing court proceedings.
Certificates were distributed by Staff Officer Inspector Antoinia Moses who was representing the Commissioner of Police who was recognised as being consistently supportive of the programme.
Also speaking at the ceremony was Miss Tina Alfred, Dominica's Queen’s Young Leader 2016. Miss Alfred has recently returned from London where she received her award and met the Queen, Prince Harry and David Beckham, at Buckingham Palace.
Tina was awarded the honour because of her work with the Victim Support Programme and the Lifeline Teens support group born out of it. She described the entire experience in the UK as "an incredible learning privilege and an experience of a lifetime".
Tina also had the opportunity to meet with the Commonwealth Secretary General Baroness Scotland and the Dominican High Commissioner Janet Charles and discussed with them how she could implement all that she had learnt. She says that she will be creating and implementing community based workshops and programs to continue to educate the public and raise awareness of Gender Based Violence and Sexual Abuse. She was heard to say “I will continue to listen and hear the cries of the unrepresented and victimized. I will be the voice for the voiceless and advocate on their behalf. I will stand in solidarity and collaborate with partners to empower and mentor so called "victims" and assist them in their journey through survivorhood to full recovery."
The final speaker was Royette Cooke from St Joseph. In giving the Vote of Thanks, she spoke movingly about the victim blaming that often goes on in the public domain.
"We should place the blame where it belongs, and hold perpetrators accountable. We must advocate for the survivors and educate our communities on the effects of sexual assault and effective ways to prevent violence. We must place the responsibility for these crimes solely on the offenders. Too often we place blame on the survivors."
The participants heard from Inspector Michael Laudat from the DPPs Office, Retired Police Commissioner Mrs. Yvonne Alexander and Retired Superintendent of Prisons Mr. Algernon Charter introduce the subjects of Paper Committals, Integrated Investigations and the need for a Sexual Offenders Register.
Representatives of the Girl Guides, CARIMAN, Child Fund and several Lifeline Victim Supporters heard the call for the following:
Lifeline is very proud to be associated with United for Children. Over 40 people braved pouring rain to join with the fourth formers form Convent High School, supporting children brave enough to report Child Abuse. Supported in our efforts by several business places and churches, this could well be the start of a network of United for Children clubs across the island.
This was an initiative which counters the culture of victim blaming and insulting that has been in evidence during the by election that took place recently. Child witnesses need protecting and as the announcer repeatedly said over the microphone." Real women do not condone child abuse by taking Hush Money and Real men protect and provide for children"
Many thanks to all who took part. Watch this space, the culture is changing.
So good to be part of the 14 member strong NGO Coalition for the Protection of Children. We are seeing changes little by little, to legislation, to protocols, to practice and to attitudes. The Culture is changing from Cover-up to Protection. This is all about being salt and light in society. Please see below our latest Press Release
The NGO Coalition for the Protection of Children and Youth calls for the adoption of the amendments to the Sexual Offences Act, Mandatory Reporting and the immediate suspension of anyone in a responsible position charged with sexual abuse or assault.
The NGO Coalition takes the view that all abused children deserve to be supported and protected by everyone in society. Their pain and hurt is unimaginable and often invisible, it is wrong when they are subjected to blame, insult and victimization.
The NGO Coalition will continue to emphasize that there is NO EXCUSE for abuse, exploitation, incest or any sort of sexual contact between adults and children. The age of consent for girls and boys in Dominica is sixteen. Sexual contact without consent is a crime. Therefore no person should have any form of sexual contact with a child under sixteen at all. A person committing this criminal act, irrespective of social status, sexual orientation, race or political affiliation should be reported, arrested and sentenced according to Dominica`s laws.
We are still waiting for the recommended amendments to the Sexual Offences Act to be adopted as promised. This should result in stiffer sentencing for those convicted of rape, especially for those who are found guilty of abusing children or those using violence.
We call on all agencies, private, government or non-governmental organizations to follow our lead and adopt a policy of mandatory reporting. This means that anyone who knows that a child is being abused and does not report it, can face serious consequences.
We also strongly recommend the implementing of an ethical code of practice whereby any employee, team member or volunteer arrested for any offence, is suspended from duty until such time as the case is determined. This is already the case with teachers and police officers and should be introduced as the expected procedure for all those in positions of authority or in contact with children.
Sexual abuse includes; unlawful intercourse, both vaginal and anal (buggery), oral sex, touching of the genitals, even through clothing, for the purpose of sexual stimulation, photographing minors naked, grooming (seducing the child for the purpose of later introducing sexual behaviour), sending explicit video material and sexting.
We call on ALL leaders in society to support this cause and to encourage victims to be brave in reporting all sexual crimes making an unequivocal statement regarding the unacceptability of this sexual abuse of minors. Real men and women do not abuse children and we should stand firm together supporting the survivors.
We are all custodians of the children and it is our duty to reassure them through words and deeds and to do our best to guarantee their protection at all times. We stand in solidarity with them in hope for a life free from all forms of violence.
Current Membership of the NGO Coalition is as follows: