Civil Society examining new changes to Domestic Violence Act

Chairman of the Equal Opportunity Commission (EOC), Lynette Seebaran-Suite, says Civil Society stakeholders are closely examining recent amendments made to the Domestic Violence Act, which have been put forward by the Attorney General.

Fifteen women have been killed in 2020 this year, thus far. Ten of those women lost their lives in domestic violence situations.

Mrs Seebaran-Suite says the recent creation of a special unit in the Police Service to deal with gender based violence is a major step forward for this country.

She says making amendments to the Domestic Violence Act is another.

“Since 2017, the Equal Opportunity Commission had put out a 10-point plan for amendments to the Domestic Violence Act and Policy,” she notes. “We are studying the Attorney General’s draft amendments, with a view to determining whether it covers the gaps which have been identified, not only by the EOC but also by many other stakeholders.”

The EOC chair says while there is movement on mitigation after the fact, more should be done to prevent the domestic violence scourge from worsening, and to ensure it becomes a thing of the past.

“So many of the causes of intimate partner violence flowing from men to women lie in the socialisation that men and women receive from their childhood,” she explains. “From the perspective of prevention of intimate partner violence, we need to look at how we socialise our boys and girls. Especially critical is the support we give to boys as they are growing up,” she argues, “in terms of teaching them what is appropriately respectful in their relationships with women and, indeed, with themselves.”

Mrs Seebaran-Suite notes that parents have a critical role to play in teaching boys how to respectfully interact with each other and with females, but she maintains the entire society also has a responsibility to positively reinforce those messages.

“The educational system has a role to play and all of the civil society organisations and other agencies that shape people, also have roles to play,” the EOC chair points out.

Lynette Seebaran-Suite suggests teaching parenting skills in targeted programmes may be necessary. She also recommends engaging in a schools’ curriculum review to ensure that from the earliest ages, children are taught about mutual respect and how to live together; how to live in partnerships; the value of family life; conflict resolution; and the importance of not using violence to resolve tension, emotional stresses and conflict in relationships.

The EOC has teamed up with several agencies to help disseminate info on how to help domestic violence victims and survivors, at this year’s International Women’s Day rally. (Image courtesy EOC)

The theme of this year’s International Women’s Day rally is “My Sister’s Keeper”. The rally takes place on Friday 6th March at 1 pm, at the Centre City Mall in Chaguanas.

The public will have an opportunity to get first-hand information from civil society stakeholders and service providers on how best to assist survivors of domestic and intimate partner violence situations.

Those agencies include: Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Rape Crisis Society; representatives from CEDAW—UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women; the TTPS’ Victim & Witness Support Unit and the new Gender-Based Violence Unit; Social Development & Family Services Ministry; Soroptimists’ Club of Chaguanas, among others.