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(CMC) – The local advocacy group, Raise Your Voice Saint Lucia Inc., says more than 1,000 cases of domestic violence had been brought before the Family Court over a three-year period and warned that official figures released here “show a startling and persistent increase in gender based violence”.
In a statement, the advocacy group said that during the period 2013-15 the Division of Human Services reported 812 cases of child abuse, categorized as physical abuse, verbal/psychological abuse, sexual abuse and abandonment/neglect.
It said that for the years, 2013, 2014 and 2016, the Family Court reported a total of 1,039 cases of domestic violence with figures for the year 2015 unavailable.
But it noted that in 2015, the Vulnerable Persons Unit of the Royal St. Lucia Police Force recorded 112 cases of sexual assault/rape and 52 cases of domestic violence.
“In 2016 the department recorded 250 cases (and) of this total 36 were domestic violence and 214 were sexual assault and rape. For the period 2013/16 the Women Support Shelter recorded a total of 1076 domestic violence crisis calls, there was a marked increase in 2016 reflecting a total of 435 crisis calls,” the organisation said.
“These statistics show a startling and persistent increase in gender based violence, we believe public education and awareness, increased resources (human, training and capacity building) to social services agencies is critical to minimize the high rate of gender based violence,” it added.
The group noted that coupled with these challenges, critical legislation to provide a more equitable environment and minimize legal victimization of women and children, have been pending for 13 years.
“We continue to call on the government of St. Lucia to enact the OECS Family Law Bills which includes Child Justice Bill – Enacted, Children (Care and Adoption) Bill – Enacted, Domestic Violence Bill – outstanding, Status of Children Bill – outstanding, Status of Parenting Testing Procedures and Regulations – outstanding,” it said.
Raise Your Voice Said Lucia Inc. said that without the enactment of the remainder of the OECS Family Law Bills, critical international conventions such as Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) cannot be locally utilized.
It also called for necessary to amend several pieces of legislation to provide an equitable playing field for women in common law relationships and children conceived in common law relationships.
They include the amendment of the Civil Code as regards succession laws and the removal of references to illegitimate and legitimate children to achieve parity among all children.
It also wants an amendment of Affiliation Act to make child support dependent on a means test, and amendments to the Criminal Code which criminalizes same-sex relationships between consenting adults.