There are several challenges facing our society in general, and women and children, that have not been addressed during the past seventeen (17) years of the Unity Labour Party (ULP) regime.
These include the increasing violence in our society and sexual assaults suffered by our women and children. Recently, the Royal St. Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force established the Sexual Offence Unit which is welcomed by the New Democratic Party (NDP). We hope that the unit is well staffed and has adequate resources to function effectively.
Over the years, calls have been made repeatedly for such a unit to be formed, bearing in mind the increasing number of sex crimes that have been recorded in this country. As a matter of fact, a 2007 United Nation report ranked St. Vincent and the Grenadines third in the world for rape.
And, St. Vincent and the Grenadines was ranked the highest in the OECS for the number of reported cases of rape during the period 2000 to 2010. What is even more disturbing; are the numerous allegations of rape and sexual assaults that are leveled against prominent individuals in this country.
The fact that the Sex Offences Unit has been created confirms that there is a serious problem of sex crimes in St. Vincent and the Grenadines which the ULP regime has denied over the years. However, concerns have been raised by Senator Kay Bacchus Baptise and supported by the general public over a statement that was made at the launch of the Unit by a senior police officer.
The officer admitted that there was a problem of unlawful sexual intercourse especially with girls under the age of thirteen but went on further to insinuate that it was the hormones in these girls and the lack of guidance in the home why there are so many problems of unlawful sexual intercourse. A suggestion that has been totally rejected my Vincentians. Since then numerous calls have been made for the officer to retract the statement.
The NDP having recognized the problems that women encounter in this country in March of 2015 held a national consultation which addressed those issues, including sex crimes, and outlined a number of initiatives that the party would have implemented had it won the general elections. One of those initiatives was the creation of a Sex Crimes Unit within the police force.
The following is an extract from the Honourable Arnhim Eustace’s address at that consultation. “The cumulative effect is that successive ULP administrations have actively set back the women’s agenda. With a government possessed of neither the track record, moral authority to engage nor inclination to listen to women, St. Vincent and the Grenadines will continue to cannibalize women and children. Women and children shall continue to be objectified; exploited as cheap labour; sexually harassed; discouraged from becoming opposition candidates; subject to the ridicule of other women; told by women parliamentarians that one of their breasts is to suckle a child and the other is for the comfort of a man; and horse-traded for rent and promotion; blamed for their own violation when warned about the clothes they wear. The ULP administration must be held to account for its treatment of women, by the nation.
By building upon its past successes, secured through women’s direction of women’s affairs, the incoming NDP administration will get out of women’s way by: reforming sections of the police force by: creating a special unit within the CID staffed not only by trained female and male officers, but with consulting doctors, social workers and counsellors, with specific training and facilities to address complaints of domestic and sexual violence; training of all police officers, especially in district police stations, to address domestic violence and rape allegations; making it mandatory that all allegations of abuse be recorded and acted upon; providing CID and district police stations with templates for the interview, advice to and follow up of domestic violence and sexual violence complaints and the presence of a female officer at all times at all stations to receive or be physically present at the receipt of complaints of sexual violence.
In addition, revising and broadening the police training manual to include training for all police recruits in domestic violence and human trafficking; implementing the mandatory use of rape kits in medical examinations of rape victims at all district clinics and hospitals; reviewing the functioning of the Family Court and all legislation connected with domestic violence and violence against women to, among other things, increase the power of the Family Court to include the imposition of criminal sanctions for domestic abuse; making mandatory the reporting by all medical personnel of births to minors at hospitals and clinics or wheresoever that birth may take place.
Also, implement the collection of data relative to domestic violence, and violence against women nationally including its dissemination to the public; instituting and enforcing a code of conduct within the public service at all levels that provides for protocol on reporting sexual offences including sexual harassment in the workplace.
Respect for the women and girls in our society must be a part of how this government conducts itself. We must set the example; implementing the Social and Spiritual Redemption Charter to provide women and children with proactive opportunities at the community level and making API, public and informal education programs, and public social media programs available to NGOs and social stakeholders.”
Taking into consideration that sexual assaults have psychological, emotional and physical effects on a survivor, and these effects are not always easy to cope with as you listen to victims of sexual violence share their experiences. The NDP is committed to provide the support mechanisms and measures to bring the perpetrators of sexual crimes to justice.