The main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) is calling on the Keith Mitchell-led administration to ensure that more is done to address the burning issue of sexual crimes which has been on a rise in the country in recent years.
Former Education Minister and Congress Caretaker for the St. George South-east constituency, Senator Franka Alexis-Bernardine addressed the issue at a press briefing held by the opposition party.
Sen. Alexis-Bernardine cited need for the establishment of a “special Victims unit” similar to the Drug Avoidance outfit “to address the high sexual offence rate in the country”.
“There should be a whole system in place (that is) monitored and dealt with by a team of persons, administrators included”, she said, adding that “we need rape kits (and) doctors that can be at hand”.
According to the female legislator governments such as the United States have excellent protocol for their people and make rape kits among other things available to victims.
“…There are many systems put in place (there) and here we have our children being attacked and raped and we can’t do anything more than get up and condemn it”, she said.
“There is decay in the social fabric of the country…a problem that we all keep endorsing and doing very little about,” she added, while calling on government to address the issue with urgency.
Sen. Alexis-Bernadine made a plea for existing laws to be tightened in an effort to curb the behaviour of repeated offenders.
“Just before I came here, I am aware of one person who has raped his second victim and has recently been sentenced to five years in jail. So, he goes up (to Richmond Hill) prison, comes out and continues. That cannot happen”, she remarked.
The female politician suggested that a comprehensive system should be put in place spearheaded by the Ministry of Social Development to ensure that what is supposed to happen is executed.
“… I want to call on the government today – they must put into place a special Victims unit to address this issue (sexual offence against minors) very much as Antigua, where a similar unit is functioning effectively.
“I call on our government get active in ensuring that this very terrible act of violence perpetrated against our children in this society does not continue.
According to Sen. Bernardine, an NDC government would “put into place the necessary protocols and structures to ensure that this matter is dealt with in utmost urgency.”
She also made mention of a recent article in the international press, which speaks to the issue of sexual abuse and sexual crimes and lists the top 10 countries in the world.
The parliamentarian said that Grenada emerged as the tenth country in the world per capita as it relates to the commission of rape offences.
“…We have a major social issue that requires immediate action,” she remarked.
“We must make ourselves aware of the impact of rape on the mind of any person let alone a child of such a tender age”, she said.
Sen. Alexis-Bernardine alluded to the many long-term physiological after effects such as traumatisation and low self-esteem that can prevent victims from functioning effectively.
She also recalled that back in 2011 a sexual abuse awareness and prevention programme was introduced for the purpose of sensitising children on the first signs of sexual advances being made to them and what they should do.
“I wonder what has happened to this programme?” she questioned.
According to the NDC senior member, the time has come when “we must get up and put some action into this process.”
“We can no longer sit at the level of condemning the actions…we are well pass that stage and must find a way to actively address the issue. It is not acceptable”, she said.
“We know for example that the police force have said over and over again that they are really trying with this because they do not have personnel and the resources to deal with this, (but) this is an addressable issue – to equip the police force with the necessary support so that they can pursue and get to the bottom of these situations.
“Our women and children must be safe, secured and protected in their own society.
In recent times, sexual offences have dominated the Criminal Assizes of the high court with 75 out of the 135 cases listed being of a sexual nature, ranging from incest, sexual assault rape and indecent assault.
Under the revised 2012 Criminal Code, cases of this nature carry a maximum penalty of 30 years imprisonment.