Justice Minister, Rayburn Blackmoore, has assured the public that the highly anticipated draft Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill will go before Parliament before the end of the year.
Speaking at the end of Phase One of the OECS/USAID Juvenile Justice Reform Project on Friday, Blackmoore revealed that Cabinet’s discussion on the amendment has ended.
“That amendment recommendation is before Cabinet, and I wanted to say to you, basically, discussion on that very important amendment is basically concluded, and before the end of the year, [it] will be taken to Parliament,” he said.
He elaborated that one of the intentions of the amended Act will be to “ensure that our young people—our girls and our boys—are given further protection under the law, and to ensure that persons who are charged with the care of our young boys and girls are held accountable, and are obligated, therefore, to report cases of abuse to the authorities.”
The Minister stated that the amended Act is a duty owed to youth, women, and other vulnerable groups.
Following a staggering 135 reported cases of child sexual abuse in Dominica in 2014, 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.
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.
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.”