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Protection orders no substitute for investigation

Published: 
Thursday, March 8, 2018

The work of the Coalition against Domestic Violence is at the very heart of our aspirations for liberty and equality captured in the national anthem. There can be little peace and security where relations between women and men, adults and children are abusive, exploitative and violent. On the International Day of Women 2018, we note that the work of the Coalition against Domestic Violence is needed more than ever.

Already for the year over 90 murders have been committed with four women being murdered in domestic settings. We are very troubled by the low detection rates for violent crimes in this country as this contributes to the weakening of the rule of law and undermines justice and security.

With domestic violence the challenge is not detection. Women who have been injured or killed by their partners or former partners typically have a history of reporting abuse to their families and the police or may even have a protection order. Further perpetration of violence by known offenders, therefore, can be prevented. Yet too many women report being frustrated by an inadequate justice response and continue to be threatened, harassed, sexually and physically abused and indeed, some are murdered.

And so we call attention to the Domestic Violence Act which requires the police to respond with diligence to all allegations of domestic violence which are punishable crimes of assault against the person. We call upon the police not to use protection orders, which victims can apply for, as a substitute for the investigation and laying criminal charges.

We also call upon health sector workers to raise the alert and report to the police when they suspect with reasonable cause that a patient, whether child or adult, is a victim of abuse. We urge the government to adopt and implement a national strategy to end gender-based violence as a matter of priority. This strategy should ensure that the Domestic Violence Act, Children Act and the Sexual Offences Act are effectively enforced; social services and health care are extended to support and protect women and their families leaving situations of harm; psycho-educational programmes for perpetrators should be available; and importantly we need to transform attitudes and values through the education sector for zero perpetration and tolerance to violence.

On this International Women’s Day, the Coalition against Domestic Violence and its members reaffirm our commitment to work together with state agencies, especially the police, the courts, schools, social services and the health sector, to ensure that children, women and men in Trinidad and Tobago live in an environment free from discrimination and violence. We all have a responsibility to foster a culture of peace, love, equality and understanding in the family, community and the country.

President, Coalition against Domestic Violence

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