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by Robyn Parris
I write to express my concern about the May 27, 2021 ruling of the Appeals Court in Barbados which adds a time limitation to the definition of “former spouse” in the Domestic Violence Protections Orders Act, Cap 130 A.
The COVID 19 pandemic has increased the risk factors of several women in Barbados to be vulnerable to domestic abuse, specifically intimate partner violence.
Before COVID, anecdotal evidence such as the testimony of female tourists, women and girls highlighted that we had a significant problem with various kinds of violence. Given this context, any actions by the judiciary that remove solutions for victims who are affected by violence are concerning.
The explanatory memorandum to the 2016 amendment to the Domestic Violence Protection Orders Act lists a number of objects and reasons for the amendment, two of which are to (a) make provision for a comprehensive definition of the term “domestic violence”; (b) extend the classes of persons who are considered to be victims of domestic violence.
To limit the definition of “former spouse” while expanding the Act to include cohabitational relationships and visiting relationships renders the Act useless to perform the purpose of the 2016 amendments.
Rather than depriving the people of Barbados of remedies to be able to leave a violent relationship and have legal protection, The Court of Appeal could have made it clear that for the purpose of the Domestic Violence Protections Orders Act, persons in all categories of relationships of affinity would be served by the Act.
This is important because research and experience makes it clear that the most dangerous time in a relationship characterized by violence for an abused person is at the point of leaving. This is the time when a victim needs the strongest protection by law.
I hope that leave will be granted to allow attorney Hanuman to take this critical matter to the Caribbean Court of Justice. The women of Barbados are grappling with an unchecked and silent pandemic of violence and we simply cannot afford to forfeit this very important provision in CAP 130 A – 2016.
I stand for making Barbados a safer space.