New Domestic Violence Act to address emotional, family, other forms of abuse

Kaieteur News – Government is preparing to overhaul the ‘Domestic Violence Act’ of 1996, with some 40 proposed amendments, which the Ministry of Human Services and Social Protection said will address family, emotional and other forms of violence.

This is according to Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr. Vindhya Persaud. Minister Persaud during a recent interview with this publication explained that a complete overhaul of the legislation is underway. The Minister noted that family violence was included in recognition of the existing gaps relating to newer forms of violence. She said: “We will not focus specifically on men but on the family because what we did was looked at the situation and how it is dealt with in other countries so we can find better ways to address the needs of everyone in that situation. With a focus on family violence, we would be able to capture, I hope, everyone affected…”

As it relates to men, Dr. Persaud noted that the new ‘Domestic Violence Act’ will cater to some of their specific needs as well. “We have found that while we can incarcerate the perpetrators of such crimes, it seldom solves the problem. We can’t keep throwing people away and placing them behind bars- sometimes people need help and they lash out due to something beyond their control, so we are going to be rolling out initiatives that will cater to everyone, especially men who have anger management issues and who are prone to temper outbursts that lead to violence,” Dr. Persaud added.

She said these initiatives will be rolled out in tandem with the new ‘Domestic Violence Act’ which is currently in its draft stage awaiting the conclusion of public consultation. In January, Dr. Persaud received reports of recommendations to update the ‘Domestic Violence Act’ and new and emerging forms of violence -family violence following a legislative analysis of the 1996 Act and research under the EU-UN that is spearheaded by the Ministry of Human Services.

The recommendations and reports were crafted by Consultants Rawle Small and Attorney- at –Law, Rosemary Benjamin-Noble. Mr. Small’s report proposed the need to expand the current Domestic Violence Act to include family Violence in recognition of the existing gaps relating to newer forms of violence and the need to increase the category of persons eligible to apply for protection orders.

Noble – Benjamin on the other hand presented over forty (40) proposed amendments to the current ‘Domestic Violence Act’ including expansion of the definitions of ‘domestic violence’ with inclusion of more comprehensive definitions of ‘economic, emotional and psychological violence’ and updating the penalties for breach of protection orders, and inclusion of ‘batterer intervention programmes’ and counselling as remedies under the law.

Minister Persaud also made several important suggestions in the discussions on the proposed recommendations and cited the analysis as a good foundation for having expanded discussions and advancing the process. The Minister also recognized that amending this law would impact other laws including the Evidence, Custody, Contact, Guardianship, and Maintenance Acts to give full effect to the proposed recommendations. She committed to engaging the Attorney General’s Chambers as the next step as the Government of Guyana is focused on tackling the scourge of Domestic Violence at all levels.