The Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill will be taken to Parliament this year after the approval of the 2016/2017 budget, Minister for Justice, Immigration and National Security, Rayburn Blackmoore has announced.
“In light of the fact that we are currently in the budget cycle for 2016/2017, it makes sense therefore, for the bill to be taken to Parliament after the approval of this year’s budget,” Blackmoore said at a press conference on Friday. “Once that is done, the first Parliament after the passage of this year’s budget, the Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill will be taken to Parliament.”
He dispelled what he referred to as “the notion being brought forward by some” that there is a lack of commitment by the government to take the proposed draft sexual offenses bill to parliament as “significantly displaced.”
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 to deal with the problem of sexual offenses on the island. Sexual offenses dominated the Criminal Assizes that year with a total of twenty-four cases in January, nine in April, and eight in September. Cases ranged from indecent assault to unlawful sexual intercourse to 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 the minister 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 17 sections, would soon be taken to Parliament for approval.
In June 2016, 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.”
According to Blackmoore, the Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill takes high priority on the government’s legislative agenda for 2016 and because it “will stimulate serious debate and dialogue…….one day in my view, will not be enough for such a very important Bill to be debated.”
The NGO Coalition has been on the forefront pushing for legislation to protect minors and the vulnerable in Dominica.