PPP concerned over continuing domestic violence

– calls for policy implementation
The PPP has voiced its concern over the continuing domestic violence in Guyana, stating that though the government “has made many gains” in the area “it is also true to say that the problem continues to persist”.

The party’s General Secretary Donald Ramotar speaking at a press conference held at Freedom House yesterday said the PPP believes the contributing factors to be “rooted in history, traditions and culture that have been male-dominated for centuries.

“The struggle to change attitudes and behaviour is much more difficult than creating the legal framework for ending domestic violence.”
As a result, the party urged the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security to continue to intensify its “very commendable effort at raising awareness about this issue and providing services to victims of violence.”

However, Ramotar said it was recognised that no one organisation can address the issue holistically and/or successfully.
The party therefore calls on “all service providers, the police and other law enforcement agencies, social workers, counsellors and our health professionals to commit to doing what is necessary to effectively address the situation.

Ramotar said the PPP has done a lot to champion women’s causes throughout the years and since it assumed office, issues affecting women were vigorously tackled. He pointed out that the party passed the “comprehensive” 1996 Domestic Violence Act. He also mentioned that in June 2008 the National Domestic Violence Policy was published and it contains various “things that must be done by all of the necessary agencies so as to address domestic violence in the short, medium and long term.”

The general secretary told the media that the party is calling on the agencies and ministries listed in the policy to “immediately seek to implement the various stated thematic areas as they are relevant to particular sectors.”

The policy was initiated to bring about change and break the cycle of violence that continues to claim lives, mostly women’s, across this country; an ambitious start to tackling the issue that has had little visible impact.

At the core of the policy was the transformation of attitudes that condone domestic violence, but equally important was the need for a multi-sectoral response to the issue that includes the involvement of a number of government ministries, the police force and community-based initiatives.

Substantially, the policy aimed at reviewing and amending the Domestic Violence Act and for the capacity of the police force to be increased, through the provision of resources, to implement the policy and maintain domestic violence units in each division.

Close to a year later, criticism of the police force’s response to domestic violence is still being aired and calls for a more effective government approach penetrate public debate on the issue.

The five-year policy was launched under the theme, ‘Break the Cycle, Take Control’, as a government initiative that would inform and guide future interventions and programmes in the area of domestic violence.

The policy contains eight thematic areas. The first pertains to the monitoring and enforcement of legal sanctions. Among the steps to be taken would be the review of the Domestic Violence Act and its implementation, providing the police force with the resources to establish and maintain domestic violence units in each division and the gazetting of competent social workers.

Under the provision of services for survivors, the policy envisages that a common service protocol will be implemented involving the health, education and social services sectors and the police force. “Reasonable access” will also be ensured by the government to temporary refuges for survivors and the government will ensure that there are appropriate legal aid services to support survivors throughout the country.
With respect to the health sector, all health services will be resourced to provide care to survivors of domestic violence and there will be a standard curriculum on domestic violence intervention.

Thematic area four entails the Ministry of Education working with the Ministry of Human Services to craft public awareness programmes to sensitise students about violence and abuse. Further, it saw the government supporting and endorsing public education campaigns by apportioning free time on the state broadcast media for public service messages.

Other thematic areas are building the capacity of rural and hinterland communities to respond to domestic violence, intervening on behalf of persons with disabilities and elderly persons.

The final thematic area relates to the monitoring and evaluation of the policy’s implementation and will rely on data gathered from hospitals and health facilities, the police force, the courts and Ministry of Legal Affairs, non-governmental organizations and the Probation and Welfare Department and the Women Affairs Bureau in the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security.

Minister of Human Services and Social Security Priya Manickchand in a recent interview with this newspaper had said that domestic violence will continue to be a major issue in Guyana and is not likely to go away if women fail to report threats or “the slightest attack against them” because of how dire the consequences could be.

The issue of violence against women will remain a tremendous challenge if women do not adopt a proactive approach, Manickchand had said, while underscoring the need for greater awareness and to some extent, personal responsibility.

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