Manickchand backs urgent action on domestic violence
-regulations coming for Act
Stabroek News
November 25, 2006

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Human Services and Social Security Minister Priya Manickchand yesterday joined her counterparts worldwide in calling for an end to violence against women, saying that the development of Guyana could be hampered if this matter is not addressed with urgency.

She was at the time delivering her address at observances to mark the United Nations-designated 26th Anniversary for the elimination of violence against women, held at Parliament Buildings.

"It's time to change the silence that confronts our women and girls when they seek justice, safety and rehabilitation," the minister stressed.

Manickchand acknowledged efforts to curb this ill but was concerned that incidents of various forms of violence against woman continue.

"This may well say to us that the existing measures to protect women against violence are inadequate, ineffective and sometimes biased against victims", she conceded.

It is in this vein that the minister pointed to the 1996 Domestic Violence Act which she said is comprehensive and truly progressive and one which the country could be proud of.

However, Manickchand did hasten to emphasize the importance of the efficient functioning of every institution concerned. To this she said, 'Every agency, every institution, every persons must resolve and commit today to making the act effective as it could possibly be.'

"As proud as we can be of the existence of the Act, prouder still we can be when all of our police treat the complaints they receive in accordance with the provisions of the act; prouder still we can be when applications made to the court are, without exception, dealt with as expeditiously as was intended by the Act," she stressed.

She noted that that her ministry, based on the work done by the National Task Force on Domestic Violence is in the process of determining the appropriate regulations which must be made under the Domestic Violence Act.

She added that the ministry is also undertaking a vigorous exercise to draft legislation relating to sexual offences which will make various acts of violence against women clearly defined crimes. "Appropriate measures are going to be taken to impose penalties and punishment and other enforcement mechanisms will be devised to prevent and eradicate sexual violence, to eliminate gender bias and to ensure justice and fairness to both the victim and accused," she reiterated.

Additionally, she pointed out that the ministry will work with the Legal Aid Clinic to expand services to Region 5 and 10 come 2007.

The minister in her presentation also encouraged the media to play a more constructive role in the process by adopting guidelines which ensure sensitive coverage of the issue and avoid the perpetuation of stereotypes.

"Our efforts have to be collaborative and every organization, every church, every institution must work together to ensure accessible effective and responsive police, prosecutorial, health, social welfare and other services to women who are victims of violence," the minister implored.

As a symbolic gesture the minister requested members of the gathering to tie a thread on each other wrists as a recommitment and rededication to themselves and to do all they could in an organized and structured manner to rid 'our women' of violence.

United Nations member states worldwide hold forums and several other activities to mark "International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women."