The Domestic Violence Act
-- boyfriends, girlfriends also covered
July 16, 2002
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We hope the articles, which will be published every Tuesday, would be of some help and guidance to those affected by the issues to be discussed.
Who can file for a Protection Order?
The victim can do it. The court has forms that have to be used to fill up the form. The staff at the court could also assist with filling up the form.
- A qualified social worker or a police officer can also file the application on behalf of the victim. The Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security has a list of social workers who can file for a protection order.
- If the victim is a child under 16 or is mentally disabled, the parents or guardian, or the person with whom the victim lives, or a qualified social worker or a police officer will have to file the application.
What is an Occupation Order?
When the court makes a Protection Order, it can also make an Occupation Order. This order entitles the victim to continue to live in her or his home, even if the home belongs to the abuser. This means that the abuser cannot throw the victim out, but the abuser will have no legal right to occupy the house while the order is in force! However, this does not mean that the ownership of the house is transferred to the victim. It means that the victim can live in the house even though it belongs to the abuser.
What is a Tenancy Order?
If the victim and abuser are tenants of the house they live in, the court gives the victim the right to be the only tenant. The abuser will have no legal right to live in the house.
How long are the orders valid? What can the abuser do legally?
The orders are valid for a specific period. The abuser can make an application for the discharge of the order as soon as it is passed. This will call for another hearing and the victim, or person filing the application for the order on behalf of the victim, can argue that the orders must continue. The courts will consider first the danger to the victim, and to any children of the victim.
How soon are the orders passed?
If the victim is in immediate danger and the situation is like an emergency, the order can be passed as soon as the application is filed. Otherwise, a hearing will be fixed within seven days after the application is filed. All of the persons have to be present at the hearing. The magistrate will have to make sure that the case is genuine. The magistrate has to be convinced that such an order is needed for the safety, well-being and health of the victim or of the children involved. The magistrate also has to be convinced that the victim needs a place to live before granting an Occupation or Tenancy Order.
The Act says that all hearings will be held without an audience. The newspapers and media cannot report on these cases unless the magistrate allows them to do so. The persons affected by the application can request reporters or other people to leave the courtroom during the hearing.
The Role of the Police
Under the Domestic Violence Act, the police officers have a crucial role to play in ensuring the safety of victims or any other persons in danger.
- They can file an application in the court on behalf of the victim.
- They can arrest an abuser without a warrant if he violates the court orders
- They have a duty to assist the victim by ensuring that the victim is taken to hospital and gets medical attention if they are injured as a result of domestic violence.
- The police have to ensure that any person who is afraid of domestic violence and feels unsafe is moved to a safe place.
The Guyana Police Force in collaboration with the CIDA - Gender Equity Fund had a project in 1998. As part of this project, all of the police were issued with a copy of ' A Household Guide to the Domestic Violence Act'.
Where can persons find more information about how to use the DVA?
- The police
- The Probation Officers of the Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security
- The Women's Affairs Bureau
- Non-Governmental organisations like Help & Shelter, Red Thread and the Georgetown Legal Aid Clinic
- Help & Shelter has copies of the application forms for the protection orders. These forms with instructions on how to fill them up will be available on the website at http://www.sdnp.org.gy/hands.
If you have any problems with trying to use the Domestic Violence Act, these should be reported to the Director of Social Services, Ministry of Labour, Human Services and Social Security, Lombard & Cornhill Street, Georgetown.