Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett says there has been a noticeable decrease in deaths resulting from domestic violence so far this year.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of a regional workshop on domestic violence, Blackett reported that following the passage of the Domestic Violence Protection Order Act nine months ago, only one domestic violence-related homicide has been recorded for 2016.
This compares to 62 deaths due to domestic violence between 2003 and 2015, with the highest incidence occurring in 2003, when ten women died at the hands of male partners, said Blackett in reference to the findings of two recent studies commissioned by the Bureau of Gender Affairs.
“So far for the year, and we are already 11 months into the year, and we have had one single incident of domestic violence [death] and I am not saying that because of the passage of the bill earlier this year that has been responsible for the reduction in domestic violence cases, especially the deaths of some of the victims, but I would think it is more than a coincidence,” Blackett said.
“I think that our men generally, who are normally the perpetrators of domestic violence, are becoming mindful in 2016 that we should be a better kind of man in today’s world,” he said, adding that, “the legislation in itself, if not principally and primarily responsible for the numbers, would have contributed in some way to how we see our women.”
Under the amended statute, which was approved by Parliament in February, 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 been given the power to enter premises –– upon the invitation of a person resident there or independently –– if there is 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.
Although the passage of the bill has not been welcomed but members of the Men’s Education Support Association, Blackett told Barbados TODAY that since the introduction of the amendments, 75 male offenders have been helped in the first eight phases of the rehabilitative component of the legislation.
The social care minister also said there has been no evidence to suggest that additional sweeping powers granted to the police had in anyway been used to the disadvantage of men. However, he left the door open for future amendments should there be any issues in this regard.
“All legislation would have some flaws and some weaknesses and if those weaknesses or shortcomings are identified as genuine cases of concern, we as a Government would address those issues by some amendments. To date, none of these issues have come to fruition, but we will monitor as a ministry, the implementation of the legislation,” he added.
However, Blackett did issue a stern warning that there are provisions in the recently approved legislation that will deal with people who make false claims, “not only in reporting child abuse cases when there are no child abuse cases but also for victims of domestic violence making false claims”.
“We have to be mindful that these things are a reality and we have to be absolutely sure that we take the necessary measures to counteract those things,” he stressed.