The Gender Affairs Committee (GAC) of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) has hit back at Minister of Social Care Steve Blackett over recent remarks on a sex offenders’ register that would allow Barbadians easy access to information on convicted rapists and paedophiles.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY on the sidelines of Wednesday’s For Every Child Hope Concert at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre to mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Children’s Fund, Blackett suggested he was in favour of a registry.
However, he advised that the authorities needed to “tread carefully” with such a move, labelling it a “double-edged sword” that could scar people for life, particularly in a small society like Barbados, and because it would affect mostly men.
The minister added that a sex offenders’ registry should only apply to “someone who has stood trial and it was proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that they are guilty of the offence”.
Friday, an emotional chairperson of the GAC Makala Beckles-Jordan advised Blackett he was the one who needed to tread carefully when expressing concern about those who might be scarred for life.
“I am very annoyed that the minister would take this stance as to say [that] having an offenders’ registry would scar the life of many, inclusive of men, but those who would have been the perpetrator who would have committed the offence of being a sexual predator. In a case like this, the minister has himself to tread carefully because when he said such a statement he is actually disregarding the person that actually got abused,” Beckles-Jordan said.
The gender advocate argued that the judicial system has failed victims of sexual abuse, especially girls as young as eight years old.
“We have 96 per cent of the cases that have been before the judicial system in Barbados, where young ladies eight years and up have been sexually assaulted . . . . Those cases have not been heard properly or in their entirety.
“You have young ladies who would have been assaulted at the age of eight who would have had their case heard when they reached the age of 21, where they would have lived from the age of eight to the age of 21 seeing their perpetrator in society daily walking around with them,” Beckles-Jordan noted.
She said some of the cases had reached the point where the perpetrators had probably died and the victims had not received any justice.
“It is not fair for the minister only to speak on the part of the perpetrator being scarred while the person who would have been abused has to live with that scar for the rest of their lives.”
The Gender Affairs Committee head is therefore calling for reform of the judicial system, which she said was responsible for scarring some of the island’s abused women.
“Cases are taking too long to be called,” she complained.
Beckles-Jordan has invited Blackett to attend their symposiums and discuss the issue.
Advocates of such a registry contend it would be an effective way to monitor sexual deviants and to protect children.
The idea has the backing of leading activists for the rights of children and women, as well as legal minds.
Late last month a young woman who was the victim of an attempted rape made an emotional appeal for such a database, calling on the authorities to list “every man that ever raped a woman, every attempted rapist, every child molester, every man that touch a minor under the age of 16” in the registry.
Blackett also gave his backing to a recommendation by former magistrate and child rights advocate Faith Marshall-Harris for a separate court to hear child abuse cases.