No Draft Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill was brought to Parliament on Monday, and Acting Secretary of the Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Coalition for the Protection of Children and Youth, Tina Alexander expressed the group’s extreme disappointment. Alexander said the organization plans to raise that issue with the government. She noted that the group was told that the Bill would be brought to Parliament “before the end of July”, and the group therefore reasonably expected it to be tabled at Monday’s meeting of Parliament.
She spoke of plans to confront Ministers, in order to seek justification for the omission of the draft Bill from this week’s sitting of Parliament. The NGO Coalition has been on the forefront pushing for legislation to protect minors and the vulnerable in Dominica. Alexander said “We have to confront the Minister, and find out what was the justification for not doing what they said they would do.” 135 reported cases of child sexual abuse were reported in Dominica in 2014, and Justice Minister Rayburn Blackmoore said in January 2015, government would establish systems to better equip prosecutors, to deal with the problem of sexual offenses on the island.
Sexual offenses dominated the Criminal Assizes in 2015, with 24 cases in January, 9 in April, and 8 in September. Cases ranged from indecent assault, unlawful sexual intercourse, incest, rape, and buggery. In October 2015, a special committee was appointed, to be chaired by legal Consultant Ray Harris, to look at the provisions of the Sexual Offences Act of 1998, and to make recommendations for amendments.
In January 2016, Harris submitted a report to Minister Blackmoore with a Draft Amendment Bill to the Sexual Offences Act. On March 7, 2016, Attorney General, Levi Peter announced that a Draft Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill, comprising of 17 sections, would soon be taken to Parliament for approval.
In June 2016, Justice Minister, Rayburn Blackmoore announced that the Draft Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill would go before Parliament before the end of the year. He called the amended Act ‘a duty owed to youth, women, and other vulnerable groups’.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, revealed that he had participated in numerous consultations on child sexual abuse, with “no less than 105 people.” The NGO Coalition is therefore baffled as to the reason why a No Draft Sexual Offenses Amendment Bill was not brought to Parliament on Monday.
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