The Upper Chamber of Parliament heard a call today for a ban on media coverage of all domestic violence cases.
That suggestion came from Government Senator Irene Sandiford-Garner who said that such a provision was the only thing she believes should be added to the Domestic Violence Protection Order Bill, which was being discussed.
“I do feel we should ban the coverage . . . media coverage of domestic violence cases, especially when you think of the fact that many of these families and family units have children who then face more abuse and more vilification when they go to school or walk the streets,” said Sandiford-Garner, an campaigner for women’s rights.
She noted that because this country was a signatory to conventions that call for the elimination of violence against women, this new legislation had gone a long way in validating Barbados’ international profile.
In seeking to show that no amount of legislation could control human behaviour, the Government Senator alluded to a paper by United Nations family violence professor Allison Gibbons, who wrote that the family is the first environment where gender roles and expectations are entrenched and where patterns of violence are established and even rationalized.
“And that is instructive, because it tells us that no amount of legislation really can control human behaviour within the family setting,” added Sandiford-Garner.
She said that all the research revealed that the motivations or the notions of control of men over women or women over men started within the home.
“So I am suggesting in conclusion Madam President, that we have to go further than the survivors and the perpetrators. We have to understand why women need protection, while understanding that there are women who would wish to have normal relationships with their men and men who would wish to have normal relationships with their women and same-sex unions where people would wish to have normal relationships with their spouses. Every human being would wish to have a normal relationship within the household,” the Senator pointed out.
Sandiford-Garner also argued for health and family life education to have a more prominent place on the schools’ agenda.
Noting that the new legislation is gender neutral, she however said no apology must be made in focusing on women and girls as victims. She argued that one in every three women in Barbados is impacted by domestic violence.
“There has to be emphasis on that,” added the women’s advocate.
She also argued that men and boys did not report their violence, adding that there was need for a reliable bank of statistics on men and boys. She told males that there was no shame in being abused, but rather there should be shame in being the abuser.
Sandiford-Garner also said that the definition of harassment was another enhancement in the Bill, adding that women were the biggest perpetrators of harassment in social media to their partners.
She warned that the new measure made cyber spying illegal and disclosed that persons could now buy surveillance equipment in Barbados to track down their partners.
In defending the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) against comments that they lacked training in dealing with domestic violence, the Government Senator explained that all recruits were exposed to sensitivity training.
“There is a domestic violence module taught at the Police Training School,” she said.
She was also pleased that the legislation empowered the police to implement the protection orders on behalf of victims who would want to withdraw charges at the last minute against their perpetrators.
She maintained that family violence could not depend on legislation alone.
“Love and licks don’t mix,” concluded the Government legislator.