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Violence Against Females Increases

A full gallery of women, including Ann Marie Davis, wife of the prime minister, was present at the Senate on Wednesday during the second reading of the Protection Against Violence Bill. 
(BIS Photo/Patrick Hanna)

By Keile Campbell
Journal Staff Writer

Most of the recent sexual assaults that have occurred in the country, the victim and perpetrator were known to each other, according to police, who have noticed an increase in sexual offences against children during the summer.

Press Liaison Officer Chief Superintendent Chrislyn Skippings said as much during this week’s Office of the Prime Minister press briefing where members of the Royal Bahamas Police Force’s Sexual Offence Unit were also present.  

“I think this is a very timely topic. Let me just ease the Bahamians to say that most of the incidents that you see occurring actions between persons who are known to each other. It is very, very rare that you have an incident where somebody is unknown to the victim. So, as I’m indicating, most of the victims – or a higher percentage,” Chief Superintendent Skippings said.

Chief Superintendent Skippings referenced when Commissioner of Police Clayton Fernander addressed the press in April 2023 saying as much, adding that the police commissioner will provide a proper update on the matter of sexual offences in the country later in the year.

After breaking down the various classifications of sexual offences such as rape, unlawful sexual intercourse, incest, indecent assault, among others, all of which the Sexual Offences Unit deals with, Officer-in-Charge of the unit Assistant Superintendent Altida Bowles explained how they are seeing many sexual offences are children leaving the home.

“We have seen a direct correlation between unlawful sexual intercourse and runaways. You will find that you have young ladies or young males leaving home, and you would see that they’ve been reported as missing, for the majority of times they are run aways engaging in sexual intercourse,” ASP Bowles explained.

“During our summer months, you will see there are increases – and has been for history, an increase during the summer months, or, a rise in unlawful sexual intercourse. We have children off from school and there’s no proper supervision, and without supervision, they say ‘When the cats away, the rats will play.’”

Lead Investigator Donna Barr continued to explain the matter of the summer period being a time when there is an uptick in sexual offences against children.

“Summer months are, unfortunately, a bad time for our juveniles. We have a lot of propensity for parents who have to work to leave their children home. Sometimes they’re left home by themselves, sometimes they’re left with family members, or just friends,” Inspector Barr said.

“We have to educate our children properly in terms of who you go around, if you’re home alone what it is you do, if you go by an adult no matter what that person is to you, you have to be mindful of what you can and cannot do. We need to teach our children about bad touches, good touches from an early age. We have to teach them about their body part. Some of the children don’t know what their [body] parts are and you will never know what they’re talking about until you actually have to break it down and try to get to what it is they’re referring to in terms of whether they were sexually assaulted or not. So, just starting from that aspect, we need to better enlighten our children so they can be prepared for not only us, but the wider community.”

This past week, mother of four-year-old D’Onya ‘Bella’ Walker – who was beaten to death by the mother’s live-in boyfriend Darion Smith in November 2021, was sentenced to three years in prison for child cruelty and exposing a child to grievous harm.

ASP Bowles said she explains to adult professionals who work with children such as teachers and councilors that it is a crime to not report harm done to children.

“There’s something called ‘Failure to Report’ that is found under the Child Protection Act. It’s mandatory reporting Section 63. It speaks to any adult who has information if a child has been abused in any type of way that’s physical, or sexual, they have a duty to report. Especially when it comes to professionals in a professional capacity such as a nurse, a doctor, a principal, a teacher, and these things you can find under the Child Protection Act,” ASP Bowles explained.

“When you look under the Sexual Offences Act, there’s also failing to report underneath there. So, the government consider the child as so important that we put failing to report under two legislations, so we must adhere to it.”

Senator criticizes Protection Against Violence Bill

On Wednesday, Free National Movement (FNM) Senator Michaela Barnett-Ellis spoke against the switch from the drafted Gender-based Violence Bill – which has been a decade in the making, to the Protection Against Violence Bill which was tabled and passed in Parliament last week.

A full gallery was present at the Senate – which included wife of the prime minister, Ann-Marie Davis, as the audience witnessed the second reading of the Protection Against Violence Bill commenced in the Upper Chamber of Parliament.

Senator Barnett-Ellis agreed with women organizations in that the tabled Protection Against Violence Bill is not as comprehensive as the Gender-based Violence Bill.

“Although it appears today, they [the government] has seen the light and are willing to admit that there are two different bills that deal with two different matters in that, the Protection Against Violence Bill covers a wider range of violence. Or, that we can just amend the Protection Against Violence Bill to provide additional gender-based violence coverage,” Senator Barnett-Ellis said.

“It demonstrates that this administration does not truly understand the issue at hand, and if they consulted with the stakeholders, they would have, in fact, grasped a firmer understanding.”
She continued to criticize the Davis administration’s effort, or lack thereof, to consult stakeholders who would be the most effected by the bill.
“Consultation is not one meeting with five days’ notice after the bill has been tabled. This administration knows what consultation is. They have a senior jurist that considered and opined on the need for consultation in a leading case right there in law reform,” Barnett-Ellis said.

“Dame Anita Allen, in the Responsible Development of Abaco case in 2011 said ‘Consultation is a vital ingredient of transparency in good government. It’s right that public authorities inform and consult those who are affected by their decisions. Proper consultation must be undertaken at a time when proposals are still in the formative stage and must include sufficient reasons for particular proposals to allow those consulted to give intelligent consideration and intelligent response.”
Some Bahamians have criticized the government with regards to the tabled and passed Protection Against Violence Bill 2023, which legislatively outlines protections afforded to some cases, but not to others.

Senator Barnett-Ellis gave one example of the danger of such oversight.

“The Gender-based Violence Bill and the Protection Against Violence Bill addressed two different types of violence. In fact, contrary to the assertions made, gender-based violence can include domestic violence, but domestic violence does not cover all gender-based violence. It is limited to violence that occurs in domestic relationships,” Senator Barnett-Ellis said.

“For example, a woman on her morning run who is sexually assaulted by a stranger, or a woman who is raped in her home by a stranger, or a little boy who is kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a stranger are all acts of gender-based violence, but are not acts of domestic violence. Shouldn’t these persons be entitled to the psychological, medical and legal assistance that is set out in the Protection Against Violence Bill? But they are not covered by the definition of violence in this bill.”On the morning when Parliament was set to debate and pass the Protection Against Violence Bill 2023, several women’s groups collaborated on a released statement condemning the last-minute switch from tabling the drafted Gender-based Violence Bill to the bill that was passed in Parliament.

This week, President of the Bahamas Christian Council Bishop Delton Fernander also criticized the government for not being consulted on the passed legislation.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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