UWI professor laments lack of implementation of child protection laws

Professor Julie Meeks
Professor Julie Meeks

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.

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  1. Tell the Facts
    August 15, 2016

    There are Laws for this and that which may not deter perpetrators. So what other Laws could prevent them from committing this atrocious crime?
    How can the government protect those children from child abuse?
    Counseling of parents and the general public is required.
    Some members of the general public, spurred on by their feelings may not pay heed. The same as stealing, shooting, drug dealing etc. They know they are not supposed to commit those crimes yet they perform them and hope they will not get caught.
    Can any Law prevent them from this? The step, when they are caught is to prosecute them to the fullest and hopefully rehabilitate them. May they then learn a lesson and be it be a deterrent for those who may consider committing this crime.
    What more could the government do or anyone else for that matter?
    Stop pressuring the government and get with it to counsel the parents, children and reach out to the general public about this matter.

  2. Princess Natari
    August 15, 2016

    Not surprised that is not as priority for them.
    The children of this land who need protection but alas, it is like no one really cares to push the legislation so that these criminals can be held accountable.
    :-| :-| :-| :-| :-|

  3. jonathan st jean
    August 15, 2016

    Thank you Julie for advocating for our young people.We need more people like you to stand up and let this inept Labour Party administration know that our youth are very valuable,are vulnerable and need the protection of the law.

  4. mt
    August 14, 2016

    Lack of comments too :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

    • Tell the Facts
      August 15, 2016

      The reason for lack of comments is, there is a Law already in place to prosecute these offenders, once reported. Furthermore, parents are responsible for their children and to counsel them. These advocates are not addressing the issue of parental responsibility to their children.

  5. The Gov't: One Man
    August 14, 2016

    “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.”
    Professor, all the stake holders on the ground know what you are saying and it is obvious that it is those at the top who are pussyfooting for what ever reason. Now that you have confirmed what we all know, let us see how long that will take for the “One Man Gang” to put things in place.

  6. viewsexpressed
    August 13, 2016

    “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.”

    Yes, shamed is too much a nice word for these incompetent leaders, and Dominica stands tall with an inept government abused the poor living conditions of poor Dominicans. There are young mothers entering ministers offices and receive handouts rather than these blind political bats create employment in Dominica.
    It is sad where we are now. Abuse has increased twentyfold in Dominica, so has poverty and unemployment.

  7. Auntie Buitre
    August 13, 2016

    Why is it that the only protection for children is to protect from sexual abuse, and not a word about the widespread physical and emotional abuse children are subjected to? I have not seen one single poster or NGO or pastor ever mention the damage to society and children caused by the use of corporal punishment in homes. Homes should be violence free. All laws should be based on the rights of children to be free of violence, be it sexual or physical.

    Take a hint from the new Bolivian Constitution:

    “Article 61.

    I. Any form of violent punishment against children or adolescents is prohibited,
    both in the family as well as in society.”

    The first step is to have Office of Children’s Defenders in every Parish, a place where children and adolescents can go to seek the kind of aid they need from professionals. And a place where information, education and campaigns against sexual and physical violence can be released to the public.

  8. dem fellas
    August 12, 2016

    The policy makers , the Skerritt DLP Gov’t, are stubborn and reluctant to amend/implement any sexual abuse ACT. See the length of time it is taking. Witness the back and forth talk, from those guys.

    Recently, with the allegations of sexual abuse of a minor by “Big Wigs,” and the resulting spontaneous vexation, advocacy against that abomination by sections of society, They tried to fool the people by talking gibly about changes to sexual abuse Act. Up to now, nothing, Nada, Rien. We know why.

    In fact, instead of amending the Act, info re. reports given, in confidence, to police, by the abused victim, is leaked out of police custody. How could that happen, if one does not want to stall the case, and thus protect the alleged perpetrators.?

    Those guys have shown no love for our young nor elders. GON Emanuel and his wife were firebombed, remember. No case. The Caribbean and the world know about leaders attitudes and behaviour, especially, re. child sexual abuse.

  9. kissit
    August 12, 2016

    well said

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