Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Priya Manickchand, yesterday launched the National Domestic Violence Policy (DVP) under the theme ‘Break the cycle – take control.’
The launch sees the realization of a document which has been in formulation for just under a year now, and its implementation will fall under the National Domestic Violence Oversight Committee that will comprise senior functionaries in various ministries and organisations.
Among those present at the well-attended launch yesterday were Prime Minister Samuel Hinds; Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee; Chairperson of the task force on domestic violence, Magda Pollard, and Administrator of the Women’s Affairs Bureau, Hymawattie Lagan.
According to Manickchand, the National Policy should be seen as a milestone in the long battle, and a significant achievement given that, in the past, there has only been a lot of talk despite the fact that Guyana passed the Domestic Violence Bill 1996, which has since been assented to by President Bharrat Jagdeo.
The Minister, seeking to assure the ordinary Guyanese who have been or will be subjected to abuse, said that the launch will “hit the ground running” and not be another “talk-shop,” in that support services as well as legal aid services have already been implemented.
In seeking to illustrate the importance of the implemented services, Manickchand made reference to a point that was raised by Minister Rohee in his presentation that persons would make a report to the Police station and then refuse to take the process further.
She noted that in most cases these persons refuse to go ahead with the matter, because the person against whom the complaint is made is the breadwinner of the family.
“As such, with the provision of legal aid and support services, that person does not have to be dependent on the breadwinner, and could proceed with legal action against that person.”
She also appealed for all relevant stakeholders to play their roles in ensuring that the scourge of domestic violence is eradicated.
According to Manickchand, the launch was not the end, but just the beginning. Come this Friday and Saturday, there will be a workshop for social workers geared specifically at empowering them to better deal with domestic violence from the report to court action.
Additionally, for two days, beginning June 24, there will be a conference held with all the relevant stakeholders to boost the policy, after which there will be a countrywide campaign much like the recently concluded Stamp It Out consultations, but this would be an awareness campaign.
“Domestic violence is a result of delinquent behaviour, and is not unique to Guyana,” said Manickchand.
Domestic violence in Guyana has been recognised as crossing all boundaries, including racial and socioeconomic lines, and has been categorised as the most prevalent form of interpersonal violence in Guyana.
The policy that was launched is seeking to have the root causes of the problem and impress upon the nation that the behaviour should be see and treated as the violation of fundamental and collective rights. The policy will be geared at working with specific deadlines and mechanisms to be implemented.
“The domestic violence policy has at its core the transformation of attitudes that condone or normalize such violence, such as gender stereotyping and discrimination.”
According to Manickchand, the Government has already, with the aim of eradicating the scourge, ratified several resolutions emanating from international conferences along the same vein.
The purpose of the policy is to move away from, “just talking” and guide future intercessions as they relate to prevention and support services for victims of domestic abuse.
Among the things to outline are the thematic areas for the framework, such as monitoring, enforcement, and legal sanctions. This aspect of the policy is expected to guide the necessary reviewing and amendments of the Domestic Violence Act to address deficiencies, particularly with reference to people with special needs, such as children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities.
It was announced that the Guyana Police Force will be given the resources to implement its domestic violence policy and to establish and maintain the Domestic Violence Units in each division.
The Guyana Police Force will also be included in a common service protocol which is also expected to be announced for implementation and will include the health, education and social services sectors.
Among other specific measures to be under the purview of the national policy are the provision of legal aid services for victims and counselling services, among others.
There is also expected to be an education aspect included in the policy, in that the Ministry of Education will be mandated to work in collaboration with the Human Services Ministry to design public awareness actions.
This newspaper understands that a standardised curriculum on domestic violence will be introduced at teachers training colleges and in the distance education programme for teachers, so that trainees will be trained and equipped to teach the prevention of domestic violence, recognising signs of abuse in children/students, and referring such cases appropriately.
There will also be the preparation of a database on domestic violence incidents, and reports with the source data coming from the hospitals and health facilities, the Guyana Police Force, the courts and the Ministry of Legal Affairs, among other bodies. In an attempt to ensure the success of the National Policy, this newspaper has learnt that there is expected to be a decentralisation of responsibilities for the relevant Act
The policy will see “each of the 10 administrative regions setting up, within the regional and local government system, domestic violence committees that will be tasked with the responsibility of initiating and monitoring strategies, activities and support services.”
Responsibility for human and financial resources for the policy, and its measures to be implemented will fall primarily under the purview of the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security.
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