Acting Secretary of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Coalition for the Protection of Children and Youth, Tina Alexander, has expressed the group’s extreme disappointment that the draft Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill was not brought before Parliament on Monday.
Alexander stated that the organization plans to raise the issue with the government.
“Our reaction is that we’re very disappointed that it wasn’t passed as expected, that it wasn’t even discussed. We’re very disappointed about that,” she said. “We’ll be raising it with the Ministry.”
Alexander noted that the group was told was the Bill would be brought before Parliament “before the end of this month” [July]. Hence, the group expected it to be raised at the meeting of Parliament, on Monday.
She revealed plans to confront Ministers, to seek justification for the omission of the draft Bill from Parliament.
“We’re going to have to raise it with the Ministers, and ask them to justify that. We haven’t received any information as to why that was…” Alexander divulged. “We have to confront the Minister, and find out what the justification was for not doing what they said they would do.”
Instead, several unrelated bills were introduced at the Seventh Meeting of the First Session of the Ninth Parliament, on Monday morning.
Following a staggering 135 reported cases of child sexual abuse in Dominica in 2014, Justice Minister Rayburn Blackmoore stated, in January 2015, that the government would establish systems to better equip prosecutors as they deal with the problem of sexual offenses on the island.
Sexual offenses dominated the Criminal Assizes in 2015, with a total of twenty-four cases in January, nine in April, and eight in September. Cases ranged from indecent assault, unlawful sexual intercourse, incest, rape, and buggery.
In October 2015, a special committee was appointed under the chairmanship of legal Consultant, Ray Harris to look at the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act of 1998 and to make some recommendations for amendments.
In January 2016, Harris submitted a report to Blackmoore with an Amendment Bill to the Sexual Offences Act.
On March 7, 2016, Attorney General, Levi Peter announced that a draft Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill, comprising of 17 sections, would soon be taken to Parliament for approval.
In June 2016, Justice Minister, Rayburn Blackmoore announced that the draft Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill would go before Parliament before the end of the year. He called the amended Act a duty owed to youth, women, and other vulnerable groups.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, revealed that he had been doing numerous consultations on child sexual abuse, with “no less than 105 people.”
The NGO Coalition has been on the forefront pushing for legislation to protect minors and the vulnerable in Dominica.