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Rights campaigners hail amended domestic violence law
A leading advocate for men’s rights and an anti-violence activist have given strong support to Government’s latest attempt to combat violence in the home.
The former chairman and founder of the Men’s Educational Support Association (MESA) Ralph Boyce and Chairperson of the SAVE Foundation Liesel Daisley have both told Barbados TODAY that the amended domestic violence legislation, introduced in Parliament yesterday, was a welcome addition to the arsenal in the fight against domestic violence.
Both organizations made input into the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) (Amendment) Bill, 2016, introduced by Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett. It outlines how law enforcement officers should respond to reports of gender-based violence and the circumstances under which they must act.
The legislation gives new sweeping powers to the police, including the authority to enter premises without a warrant if there is reasonable ground to suspect a protection order had been breached and to seize ammunition, firearms or other weapons in the possession or control of perpetrators.
“It’s a welcome upgrading of the legislation; it was long in coming,” said Boyce, who was part of a committee established to fine-tune the provisions of the Bill.
He made particular mention of the section of the Act that deals with the granting of a protection order. Under the current law people must be living together in order for either of them to be granted a protection order. However, changes have been made to this section in the amended measure.
“One of the new departures is – which is really welcomed – is that visiting relations are also involved now. If you are visiting [for] one week or two, you now come under the law,” he pointed out.
Still, the former MESA head was worried that men would be seen as the only perpetrators, although they too are sometimes victims of abuse.
He contended that a lot of men seen walking around looking proud, or driving attractive cars, were under pressure from their partners.
“What we have to be careful about . . . yuh know this reporting that . . . it comes across as though the men, although they don’t say it out loud, [that] the men [are the only] perpetrators. You hear about withholding weapons, the guns; that’s usually [said to be] the men,” the men’s rights advocate said.
“Very often the psychological abuse . . . because you can’t go show anybody any damage to the skin or anything, but [there is] the psychological abuse, women against men; that is something we have to keep our minds on.”
Boyce also suggested that the police needed a lot more training because there was still much reluctance to respond to reports of domestic abuse.
“People say it is a domestic matter and blah, blah, yuh know.”
Like Boyce, the SAVE Foundation head Liesel Daisley has seen the introduction of the amended “21st century” Act as a positive step.
Daisley, whose organization campaigns against domestic abuse, is particularly pleased with the provision which addresses stalking.
“I’m glad that there is going to be new stalker legislative provisions because we find that a lot of times when a relationship is ended, the perpetrator stalks the victim quite a bit,” said the anti-violence campaigner, who described it as a modern piece of legislation.
“In general, the Act is coming into the 21st century, and even though it may not be every single thing that we may want, it is still a welcomed change and it is still very necessary that the amendment is happening and [it’s] happening now.”
The Save Foundation boss said she was delighted that many of the recommendations which her organization proposed during the consultation period had been included in the new statute.
When he introduced the Bill yesterday, Blackett said the Royal Barbados Police Force was obligated to respond to every complaint alleging domestic violence and the Commissioner of Police must keep a domestic violence register to record information obtained by members of the Force who respond to such complaints.
The Act also mandates officers who respond to complaints alleging domestic violence to complete a report in accordance with a specified form and record the information in the register, and to provide the person making the report with a copy as soon as practicable.