The top United Nations (UN) spokeswoman in the Caribbean has welcomed the recent passage here of the Domestic Violence (Protection Orders) Act, saying she intends to promote it as a blueprint for other regional states to follow.
Under the amended statute, a junior police officer may issue an emergency protection order if he or she has reason to believe that such an order is necessary to ensure the safety of a person at risk. Low-ranking officers may also issue emergency protection orders without the consent of the persons at risk.
Among the other powers handed to the Royal Barbados Police Force is the authority to enter any premises without a warrant if an officer has reasonable grounds to suspect that an emergency protection order, an interim protection order or a final protection order is being breached. Officers have also be given the power to enter premises –– upon the invitation of a person resident there or independently –– if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a person on the premises has suffered, or is in imminent danger of suffering, physical injury at the hands of some other person.
In hailing last month’s move by the Barbados Parliament, which was also due for approval by Governor General Sir Elliott Belgrave, UN representative Christine Arab said the act reflected the current “reality” in Barbadian homes.
“We intend to show window [it] to a number of other governments in the next six months and say, ‘now what’re you going to do here’.”
Arab said the legislation “recognizes the reality in Barbados that many people in their homes, aren’t married; they’re not in common-law relationship; they might be elderly living with family; they might be children whose mother’s boyfriend has done something.
“It [the amended law] says any violence in the home deserves protection. And secondly, it says that police have the right to issue protection orders because they can see a crime is being committed. And that is an important distinction,” she added during an International Women’s Day function organized by the National Organisation of Women (NOW).
However, not everyone in Barbados was in agreement with the act. During a very robust meeting of the Men’s Educational Support Association (MESA) last month, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite was bombarded with complaints from men who in addition to contending that they were also victims of domestic violence, maintained that the judicial system in Barbados had not only failed men, but was “a recipe for murders”.
MESA chairman Grantley Osborne had also warned during the February 25 meeting held at the St Michael School that the new domestic violence legislation “is going to cause more violence”, while advising the Government’s chief legal advisor: “Don’t bury your head as an ostrich in the sand.”
However, addressing Tuesday night’s function at the Radisson Aquatica, president of the Caribbean Women’s Association (CARIWA) and past president of NOW Marilyn Rice-Bowen said there was need for women in general to be on their guard, as she expressed concern about the high incidence of violence against women throughout the region.
“In January alone, we recorded 10 murders in Guyana, and it was only last night, I think, there was a slashing of a woman in Trinidad,” she said, while declaring, “The region has gone mad.”
Her comments also coincided with a report out of Guyana on International Women’s Day of a woman being chopped to death by her live-in spouse of eight years.
“I take absolutely no comfort when I hear people say that Barbados is not as bad. If our brothers and sisters are in trouble in the region, we as a people are also in trouble,” the former NOW leader said, while calling for more persons to speak out against the worrying pattern of violence.
In reference to last month’s forced resignation of Port of Spain Mayor Tim Kee, following disparaging remarks he made following the assault and murder of a female Japanese tourist, Rice-Bowen also suggested that there was need for Barbadians to become “a little more militant like our sisters in the region, like how Trinidad made sure that mayor stepped down”.