University of the West Indies Professor Julie Meeks has lamented the lack of the implementation of existing child protection laws in Dominica, and the Caribbean region, and advised that policy makers be “shamed into getting things done.”
During her presentation at the Ninth Annual Bernard Sorhaindo Memorial Lecture, held at the Fort Young Hotel, on Thursday night, Meeks commented that there is failed synergy between the Non-governmental organizations who are advocating for children’s rights, law enforcement, and the judiciary.
“Where we have legislation in place, it’s not implemented. Where we have a strong NGO community, they’re not speaking with the Police, or where we have a strong court system, which is nowhere,” she said. “We’re not getting it right; we’re not getting the synergies together.”
In June, Acting Secretary of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Coalition for the Protection of Children and Youth, Tina Alexander, expressed the group’s extreme disappointment that the draft Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill was not brought before Parliament, as allegedly promised by authorities.
The NGO Coalition has been on the forefront pushing for legislation to protect minors and the vulnerable in Dominica.
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.
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.”
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.
According to Blackmoore, the Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill takes high priority on the government’s legislative agenda for 2016, and will be taken to Parliament this year, after the approval of the 2016/2017 National Budget.