JFJ urges Gov’t to amend Domestic Violence Act

HUMAN Rights watchdog Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) is calling on 63 members of the Lower House and 21 members of the Senate to intensify their efforts in amending the Domestic Violence Act, following several recommendations made by a joint select committee in 2018.

The lobby group calls come as International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is being observed today under the theme ‘Unite! Activism to End Violence against Women & Girls’.

“Since 2020 JFJ has received complaints and reports from over 80 persons, most of whom are women. We have provided legal advice, representation, securing protection and occupation orders. The organisation has collaborated with governments, international agencies, and civil society groups to promote strong domestic violence laws and programmes. We have stood in courts with survivors as they fought for justice. We have held their hands as they navigated their journey from victim to survivors,” JFJ said in a statement to the media on Thursday.

The JFJ stressed that the 84 parliamentarians should, “exercise the political will and move with alacrity in amending the laws”. It also said, despite advancements made, the failure of amending the Domestic Violence Act must swiftly be corrected.

Further, the group pointed out that there should be a clearer definition of domestic violence in law, expansion of the basis for a protection order, increase of fines and imprisonment for breach of a protection order, and mandating of abusers to compensate survivors.

“JFJ is disappointed that Parliament in 2018 did not accept recommendations on redefining the definition of rape and making changes to grievous sexual assault to address forced anal sex. By shifting the burden on the general population to vote on buggery by way of a referendum Parliament has reneged on its legislative responsibility. JFJ reminds Parliament that the rights of the minority should not be subjected to the tyranny of the majority. Further, given the seriousness of rape and the need to ensure our men and boys receive equal protection in law, Parliament must act decisively,” the release said.

“We urge you to take seriously the views and experience of domestic violence survivors and representative organisations in deliberations on domestic violence law reforms. There are several areas of consensus regarding the Domestic Violence Act that may not require a joint select committee to be formed. Nevertheless, if that is the stance, we urge Parliament to name and convene such committee by first quarter of 2023,” it added.

— Brittny Hutchinson