(Statement on the frequent acts of violence against women)

“We are deeply concerned and saddened about the all to frequent acts of violence against women in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Over the last week or so, there have been several incidents of violent acts against women. On or about January 4th 2020, the nation learned of the horrific attack on a Cane Garden resident, Ms. Monique Hutchins. Ms. Hutchins was allegedly beaten with a hammer by her former partner.

Following that incident, sometime on the eve of Wednesday, 29th January 2020, several voice-notes were circulated in public. The recordings captured the voice of a young woman as she pleaded with a man to stop beating her, as he threatened to kill her. Again, violence was used as the means of resolving whatever conflict there may have been between the parties. This can never be acceptable or justified.

Then, on or about 29 January 2020, reports emerged that another young woman had been brutally chopped about the face in the community of Greiggs. The reports are that, in the incident, two other women were involved in causing the teenage girl to receive the chop wounds.

On January 30th 2020, our nation learned of the most shocking and deadly incident in the recent spate of violent crimes against women in SVG. In that shocking crime, Arianna Taylor Israel, a nurse, was shot to death in the precincts of a secondary school in Kingstown, where she had gone to pick up her son who was a student there. It is alleged that the person responsible for this fatal shooting was her estranged husband.

We in the New Democratic Party, like most Vincentians, are outraged by the seeming unchecked violence against women in our society. These are only the recent high-profile cases, but the problem of violence against women, including sexual violence, reaches into every community and walk of life. Any such act of violence or abuse is one incident too many. Whether the cause is domestic in nature or otherwise, all such acts must be condemned and treated with equal seriousness. The full weight of the law must be brought to bear to deter them.

The recent violent incidents must galvanize our community, irrespective of political and other differences, to unite in common cause and demand loudly and persistently that more be done to seek to bring an end to violence against women. We condemn in the strongest possible terms these violent acts perpetrated against women and girls in our country, and indeed wherever they occur.

We simply cannot continue to treat violence as if it were an acceptable means through which our differences can be resolved. The NDP stands ready to work with Government, churches and other social organizations to create and implement a comprehensive crime fighting plan — one that will target acts of violence against women. In the meantime, a thorough investigation must be done to determine how the police responded to Arianna Taylor Israel’s complaints about threats against her life and what could have been done to help her. Our sympathy goes out to the family and relatives of the victims. It is time for constructive national dialogue and effective action.”

The New Democratic Party is deeply concerned with the increased violence against women, sexual assaults suffered by our women and children, difficulties in the working environment and inadequate care facilities for young children of working mothers. In order to support and empower our women and strengthen our families, the NDP will: review the functioning of the Family Court and all legislation connected with Domestic Violence and violence against women, among other things, increase the power of the Family Court to include the imposition of criminal sanctions for domestic abuse and expand the scope of the Family Court to encourage mediation and alternative dispute resolution and conflict resolution in family situations; revise and broaden the police training manual to include training for all police recruits in domestic violence and human trafficking; implement the mandatory use of rape kits in medical examinations of rape victims at all district clinics and hospitals; and make mandatory the reporting by all medical personnel of births to minors at hospitals and clinics or wheresoever that birth may take place.

We will also begin to collect data relative to domestic violence, and violence against women nationally including its dissemination to the public; institute and enforce a code of conduct within the public service at all levels that provides for protocol on reporting sexual offences including sexual harassment in the workplace; respect for the women and girls in our society must be a part of how this government conducts itself. We will implement the Social and Spiritual Redemption Charter to provide women and children with proactive opportunities at the community level and make education programs available on public and social media.

The NDP will support the welfare service so that it can better address the needs of vulnerable women and children; restructure and improve the Foster Care System; support community projects that include continuing education and skills training, especially those targeting young parents; engage single mothers to address issues that are specific to them as a group; provide incentives for employers whose working hours create challenges to the safety of women traveling to and from work, to address these issues and partner with NGOs to offer hotline services and support for women, children and young people who are at risk.

The NDP understands that issues of gender and the equality of women and the challenges facing our women and children require ongoing discussion at all levels. We undertake to have these discussions and engage with the relevant organizations, locally, regionally, and internationally so that we can better address the challenges that confront our women as we strive to improve their lives.