Ag. Public Health Communications Specialist
Ministry of Health and Social Development
Telephone: 468-3701 ext. 852 7742
The Territory is receiving assistance in its efforts to reduce family violence from the United Nations organisation dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women (UN Women).
UN Women consultant Mrs. Jacqueline Sealy-Burke LL.B LL.M LEC facilitated a series of meetings with stakeholders from November 29 to December 1 on the effectiveness of the court mandated Partnership for Peace Violence Intervention Programme in its legal context. Stakeholders also participated in work groups to discuss the do’s and don’ts regarding reform on sexual offences.
Mrs. Sealey-Burke highlighted inadequacies in the handling of sexual offence cases in the region and said law reform on its own is not adequate and must be accompanied by changes to the culture of the criminal justice system. She stated that the working group must also approach sexual offences from a systemic approach to effect needed change.
Mrs. Sealy-Burke added, “Often we approach black letter reform in hopes that it will change behaviours and it won’t. You need to build on existing programmes, training and judicial education to enhance law enforcement, prosecution and judicial officers’ expertise in dealing with sexual offence cases.”
Gender Affairs Coordinator, Ms. Lorolie Connor said that due to a growing concern in the levels of violence against women and girls particularly in the Caribbean region, UN Women offered support to the Virgin Islands to begin the process of legislation reform, towards the development of a Sexual Offences Bill.
The Territory will also receive assistance in implementing principles of equality and non-discrimination in the Territory’s justice system.
Ms. Connor added that she looks forward to the work ahead in the development of the bill and the continued enhancement of the Partnership for Peace Programme.
She said that although Part Seven of the Criminal Code addresses some forms of sexual offences, a comprehensive law is needed that addresses all sexual offences especially when dealing with cases of incest, sexual exploitation of children in all forms and a broadened definition of rape.
Representatives from agencies including the Royal Virgin Islands Police Force, Her Majesty’s Prison, staff of the Partnership for Peace Programme, Office of the Director of Public Prosecution attended the meetings. Justices for the Supreme Court dealing specifically with civil matters, staff of the High Court Registry, Magistrates and the Ministry of Health and Social Development also participated.
The Partnership for Peace Violence Intervention Programme is court mandated and is geared at decreasing men’s violence against women. The programme also aims to decrease family violence with the core principles of victim safety and male accountability.
The Ministry of Health and Social Development aspires to provide a caring and integrated system of health and social services that facilitates human development and improves the quality of life in the Virgin Islands.