By DANA SMITH
Tribune Staff Reporter
ESTABLISHING a sexual offences court is one suggestion of a newly-created, government-launched task force designed at ending the country’s high levels of gender-based violence.
Social Services Minister Melanie Griffin announced the creation of the task force yesterday at the Department of Rehabilitative Welfare Services on Thompson Boulevard where she was joined by Attorney General Allyson Maynard-Gibson, Youth Director Darron Turnquest and several other officials.
The task force seeks to develop a coordinated national response to gender-based violence, develop a surveillance system for the collection, analysis and protection of data, and also to assess and strengthen the criminal justice response to gender-based violence.
As part of this assessment and strengthening of the criminal justice response, establishing a family court system and a sexual offences court system are two of the goals.
“Gender-based violence in its simplest form is used as an umbrella term by the international community to describe any act of physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, or financial abuse committed by a person of one sex against a person of the opposite sex or the same sex,” Mrs Griffin said.
“Women and girls are most at risk of gender based violence. The terms ‘violence against women’ and ‘gender-based violence’ are often used interchangeably, however men and boys can also experience gender-based violence.”
The minister explained gender-based violence includes intimate partner violence, rape and sexual abuse, sexual abuse of a child and incest, sexual harassment, as well as sex trafficking and forced labour.
She said: “While hard date is limited, anecdotal data suggests that there is a high level of gender-based violence in the Bahamas, often with fatal consequences.
“There are a number of government agencies and non-governmental organisations that address gender-based violence in one form or another and we are indeed appreciative of these efforts however the government has determined the need for a more coordinated approach so as to achieve greater results.”
This more coordinate approach is the National Task Force for Ending Gender-Based Violence. The task force’s mandate includes the development and implementation of a national strategic plan and other initiatives to address gender-based violence, Mrs Griffin said.
Retired Justice Rubie Nottage will serve as chairman of the task force and Dr Sandra Dean-Patterson and Robin Roberts will serve as co-deputy chairmen.
The task force will also include wide representation from the community, Mrs Griffin said, and confirmation is still being awaited regarding Family Island representatives.
She added: “In addition to the task force, the government has appointed an oversight committee of Cabinet ministers with responsibility for health, education, national security, legal services, youth, and social services, to oversee the implementation and coordination of a national strategic plan to address gender-based violence.
“I am confident that under the leadership of the chairman and the co-deputy chairmen, the task force will diligently undertake its mandate.”