Convicted sex offenders can find themselves facing tougher penalties for offences committed against women and children under a Government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC).
The proposed measures to be implemented were outlined by Political Leader, Senator Nazim Burke while addressing a rally at the Sauteurs Bus Terminal last Sunday in commemoration of International Women’s Day which was observed on March 8th.
Sen. Burke stated that many women are victims of the worst form of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, and that Congress must do what is right to defend the women.
He said a Government formed by the NDC will introduce “dangerous offenders legislation” to ensure that the crimes of violence against the women and children by repeated offenders come to an end.
Sen. Burke announced that the criminal code will be amended to ensure that repeated offenders will face stiffer penalties, and once that individual continues the practice he will be designated and targeted as a “dangerous offender,” with special laws to be applied to him.
“Any serious government in our country must be prepared to provide ‘tough love’ to all those attackers,” he remarked.
“An NDC Government will put an end to the widespread practice of incest against our children, and sexual violence against women,” he said.
According to Sen. Burke, the State cannot afford to have young girls being raped and murdered, and buried in shallow graves because “they have the courage to speak up against their attackers”.
He referred to the cause list in the current criminal assizes which shows that approximately 60 percent of the cases are sexually related.
He felt that if Grenada is to advance as a civilised nation, a fundamental change has to take place with the way women are seen, treated and are related to.
“Our women… cannot just be seen as sexual objects. Our women must be treated with dignity and respect. Our women must be seen as partners, not as persons to be dominated over,” he said.
The NDC leader believes that if both sexes unite Grenada will be able achieve a lot more.
During the previous 2008-13 Congress Government of Prime Minister Tillman Thomas, the maximum penalty for rape was increased from 15 to 30 years.
Sen. Burke indicated that his party’s celebration of International Women’s Day gives the NDC an opportunity to thank the women of the party.
He recalled that at the time the party was facing uncertainty in 2012 with a bitter internal feud with the brand of the party being at risk, the women stood up and defended the cause of the party.
He noted that the celebration comes at a most critical time in Grenada’s history as, according to him, over 40 percent of the women of Grenada are living in poverty, while over 50 percent of the young people are without a job.
The NDC leader said his party must do what is right to ensure that the economic security of the women is protected.
“Our women must not be put in a position when they prefer to work to support their families and when they’re coming home at nights they’re scared to walk the streets because some man is going to attack them, and their children at home,” he said.
Feature speaker, Sen. Franka Bernadine underscored the need to strengthen the laws to protect the vulnerable women and children who face violence.
She spoke of domestic violence in Grenada having increased in recent years, and called for systems to be put in place to address it.
She promised that if given the chance to govern the country once more, an NDC Government will ensure that better systems are in place to protect the women and children from all forms of violence apart from those that were already legislated between 2008 and 2013.
The female Senator implored the men to join the fight in stamping out the unacceptable scourges of incest and domestic violence plaguing women.
She wanted the men folks to understand that the celebration of International Women’s Day is nothing about putting down men, but celebrating women and womanhood.
Sen. Bernadine believes there is a battle that needs to continue to give women the opportunity and support to get qualified with employable skills and educational opportunities.
She lamented that too many women do not have the opportunity to continue their education in skills training after having dropped out of school because of giving birth to a child at an early age.
However, she indicated that women who are providing for their families can today be found in almost every profession.
“Equal opportunity must be there whether you are male or female, so that if a woman wishes to pursue a career in being an airline pilot she must have that chance and certainly must not be discriminated against because she should be at home with a family or that she is a woman. Today’s woman is able to do both, look after the family and pursue her career,” she said.
Sen. Bernadine spoke about the global percentage of women who find themselves in different jobs.
In the service industry there are 61.05 percent of women, 13.05 percent in industries, 25 percent in the field of agriculture, while 23 percent of the seats in parliament are held by women.
President of the Women’s Arm of the NDC, Jenny Simon joined in speaking out against sexual violence against women and children.
Simon revealed that an NDC Administration will ensure that systems are in place to assist affected children including the strengthening of what is currently “a very weak and ineffective Child Welfare Authority.”
Simon also touched on the need for equity between both sexes.
The feminist activist felt that it is time for women to have the same rights and opportunities as men, adding that Congress has a plan for the social development of the nation.
“Commitment to the development of people is the hallmark of the NDC,” she remarked.
According to Simon, 47 percent of women are heading the family as single parents at a time when the local women having to combat joblessness, dysfunctional families, poorly developed social skills and habits, lack of institutional support, and profound sense of powerlessness.
She told the rally an NDC Government will pursue a path which seeks to ignite the social development system, and which focuses on putting family and community at the core of the development.
Simon said through the establishment of a social development commission, a Congress Government will begin to shift policy direction from a welfare perspective to a strong developmental orientation that focuses on people empowerment, and not merely dispersing resources in a handout fashion.
She said the party’s vision for social development is geared at promoting social upliftment through education, training and human resource capacity building.
The 2008 National Carnival Queen, Ashida Charles who made a presentation at the rally indicated that despite the opposition she faced from friends to grace the stage of the NDC, she felt that she had the right to decide her own destiny.
Charles who spoke of being a strong believer in democracy said anything short of that is a demonstration of fear and an injustice to freedom of expression and association.
“When we, you and I choose to stand up and speak out against political victimisation, violence against women and children, and discrimination in the workplace, we as women, we will make the difference,” she said.
The former Carnival Queen said there is an urgent need to call out the political, economical, and social forces that endeavour to stifle women’s development.
She admonished the population to unite with one voice in an effort to restore hope in the country.
International Women’s Day is built around the value of justice, dignity, hope, equality, collaboration, tenacity, appreciation, respect, empathy, and forgiveness.
The rally was held under the theme, “Be Bold For Change.”