Categorized | National News

Women’s Rights Advocates Remain Optimistic to PAV Amendments

Rights Group Seeking More Comprehensive Violence Bill

By Licec Bastian

Journal Staff Writer

Women’s Rights Groups are seeking amendments to the Protection Against Violence Bill (PAV) and are aiming for a more comprehensive bill to address gender-based violence as they prepare to meet with the minister of social services next week.

Women United, in a statement, this week, said the organization met with Minister of Social Services Obie Wilchcombe where concerns regarding the current state of the bill were discussed.

“A productive meeting took place last week between our representatives and the minister of social services, where concerns regarding the current state of the bill were discussed. We emphasized the importance of critical information that was missing that would render the bill accessible and supportive for all members of society,” the statement said.

“It is clear from the meeting that the government is committed to passing the Protection Against Violence Bill instead of the Gender-Based Violence Bill.  We are therefore constrained to working within the parameters of the new Protection Against Violence Bill and must focus our efforts towards securing amendments that will bring it in line with some of the fundamental elements of the Gender-Based Violence Bill.”

President of Women United and a representative from the women’s groups Prodesta Moore said while the group appreciated the chance to meet with Minister Wilchcombe and engage in meaningful dialogue, it’s the intent of the group “to ensure that the legislation is not only useful, but also embodies the spirit of the Gender Based Violence Bill which we had been working on for over 10 years now.”

Last week, senators passed the PAV in the Upper Chamber of Parliament, just a few days after MPs did the same in the Lower Chamber.

During his contribution to the debate, Attorney General Senator Ryan Pinder noted that the 2016 Draft of the Gender-Based Violence Bill was never intended to be the bill that the government would go with and added that there were too many gaps between the actual and desired performance, including no lead agency or authority and no governmental mechanism for integrated information management. He said the 2016 draft needed further consultation and refinement.

Ms. Moore noted that despite the many representations during the debate the AG himself admitted that the new bill is a shift from the 2016 draft bill.

“We seek to clarify with him and the minister why we feel changes need to be made to the Protection Against Violence Bill,” Ms. Moore said.

“However, we must be clear that the introduction of the Protect Against Violence Bill, was not made readily available for review by many women’s groups nor were they consulted as multiple government representatives have expressed. Since we raised our voices, we have learned that there was very limited consultation and inadequate distribution of the bill, with inaccurate versions circulating when requested.

“Furthermore, the educational efforts surrounding the new bill were limited in scope, focusing solely on Nassau and excluding other islands. We feel inaccurately noted by the prime minister in response to our request to delay the debate.

“We want to stress the importance of a non-political and transparent approach in the creation of legislation designed to protect the rights and safety of women and children.”

“We firmly believe that the wellbeing of women, who constitute over 50 percent of our society, should transcend political boundaries,” emphasized Charlene Paul from CIWIL, Caribbean Women in Leadership (CIWiL). 

“Transparency, inclusivity, and a duty of care must be at the core of the presentation of any legislation aimed at safeguarding our women.”

According to the statement, Minister Wilchcombe has scheduled a meeting at 9:30 a.m. on August 14, where the women’s groups will provide their proposed amendments in an effort to refine the existing PAV bill.

“We will submit our concerns in writing before the meeting.  We remain optimistic about the prospect of meaningful changes and are hopeful that the minister’s commitment to amend the bill will result in a more comprehensive and effective piece of legislation,” the statement said.

“As August 14 approaches, we remain resolute in our commitment to championing comprehensive and impactful legislation to combat gender-based violence, safeguarding the rights and dignity of women across The Bahamas.  We will be requesting to meet with the prime minister and the attorney general to clarify our requests as well and to speak to them on additional upcoming legislation to give women equal citizenship rights and to protect married women from all forms of violence.”

The statement also encourages all women’s groups and advocates of women to support the efforts of Women United to ensure that the best bills and legislation for women in the country are created.

The statement was signed by Marion Bethel Sears; Women United; Caribbean Women in Leadership (CIWiL); Therese Turner Jones; Bahamas Urban Youth Development Center (BUYDC); Women of Strength Association; Everyone Counts Organization; Rights Bahamas; Roots of Change and the Bahamas Artist Movement (BAM).

Written by Jones Bahamas

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