(PRESS RELEASE) – The Caribbean Committee Against Sex Crimes is an initiative founded by Camille St. Omer of the Zandoli Foundation.
Camille appointed Attorneys at law Jonathan Bhagan and Gina Maharaj to lead the initiative in mid- 2016.
Initially the advocacy of CCASC focused on a regional sex offenders registry based on the International Megan’s Law.
Every CARICOM state would have to pass a local sex offenders registry and then amalgamate the information into one database to track sex offenders moving in and out of the region.
With further research a greater focus was put on Victims Support. The majority of victims of sex crime do not go to the police. Furthermore some CARICOM states can take as long as 8 years to finish a rape trial, these delays are a harrowing ordeal for a survivor of rape to endure.
Sex Crime is endemic in the Caribbean region which has been recognized by the United Nations as one of the regions with the highest rates of sex crime globally.
“Three of the Top Ten Rape Rates in the World Occur in the Caribbean”
Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the World Bank (2007). Crime, Violence, and Development: Trends, Costs, and Policy Options in the Caribbean.
The impact of this problem is that citizens of CARICOM are at risk, and those who are survivors of sex crime face serious mental and physical health concerns that will cost the economies of their nation states in productivity and medical expenses. “30% of rape victims have had a major depressive episode. 13% of Rape victims have attempted suicide a rate 13 times higher than non-rape victims” (Kilpatrick et al., 1992).
Achievements of the Caribbean Committee Against Sex Crimes to date:
1. Produced a draft treaty that would establish a regional sex offenders registry and mandate government support for victims of sex crime. This helped guide future policy discussions and legislative agendas.
2. In September 2016 Hosted we a panel discussion at the UWI Law Faculty entitled “When Sex Becomes Crime: Apprehending, Registering, Monitoring and Tracking Sex Criminals “ This was covered by local and regional media.
3. Made contact with the Senior policy advisor in the US Department of Justice SMART department Lori McPherson in late 2016. Lori Mcpherson reached out to CCASC after seeing online news about the event hosted in the UWI Law Faculty .
4.Pushed for a Draft Sexual Offenses Amendment for Trinidad and Tobago that would establish a public sex offenders registry and bring Trinidad and Tobago into reciprocity with the US International Megan’s Law. Once this is passed into law in any form the rest of CARICOM will take note. This draft was circulated to the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobagofor comments in mid 2018.
5. Lectured most of the police commissioners in the Caribbean at the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police Conference in Miami in December 2017with agents from the FBI, DEA, ATF and a lawyer from the US Department of Justice in attendance.
6. Meeting with the head security agency of CARICOM , CARICOM IMPACs on February 22nd 2018.
7. A position paper was sent to the security agency CARICOM IMPACS for circulation to the relevant CARICOM heads.
Recommendations from Position Paper produced by CCASC:
1. Coordination with Universities and other stakeholders to do targeted research on regional trends with regard to Sex Crime in order to inform policy.
2. Training for immigration and customs personnel to identify the marker that convicted US child Sex Offender’s passport’s will be stamped with in the near future.
3. Establishment of an amalgamated database of convicted Sex Offenders in CARICOM to be shared with IMPACS, INTERPOL and the US Angel Watch Centre in line with International Best Practice.
4. Model Legislation for police level Sex Offender registries should be standardized throughout CARICOM. Legislation and should expressly stipulate provisions for international notification in line with best practice and for registration of Sex Offenders who commit crimes outside the region.
5. Standardize a policy for supporting victims of sex crime within CARICOM, identify funding for states that have no rape crisis centre for the public such as Dominica. Funding for Transitional housing for victims of sex crime and human trafficking.
6. Need to standardize best practice for sex offender rehabilitation to reduce recidivism and facilitate rehabilitation regionally, Policies should cause any CARICOM national who is a registered sex offender to register with the rehabilitation centres in the respective state they may choose to migrate to.
7. Encourage nation states to reform court systems in order to fast-track sex crime cases.
8. Establishment of a Victim Advocates pilot program for CARICOM, this program will work in tandem with law enforcement, the courts, civil society organizations, and be an advisory body for the prevention and elimination of sexual assault crimes, training, and licensing civil society organizations.
It is Critical that member states be sensitized to the importance of dealing with sex crime. The human and economic cost of this problem cannot be overemphasized. Reducing sex crime and supporting survivors is the correct course of action both morally and strategically in keeping with the CARICOM vision of promoting Human Rights and Social Justice.