Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Hon. Olivia Grange, has announced that amendments to the Domestic Violence Act will be brought to the House of Representatives before the end of June.
“We are serious about ending domestic violence. The Chief Parliamentary Counsel is preparing the amendments, which I expect to bring to this House before the end of June,” she said, during her contribution to the 2021/22 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on June 8.
She pointed out that the amendments will include a new definition of domestic violence as not only physical but also psychological, emotional and sexual.
“The effect of this important update will mean that for the first time, men or women who control their partners through threats or by restricting their personal or financial freedom, could face sanctions in the same way as those who are physically violent towards them,” the Minister noted.
“We will also widen the threshold to be met in obtaining protection orders from the Court, to give greater protection to those who need the orders to keep abusers away,” she added.
Ms. Grange informed that the penalty for breach of a protection order will be increased from $10,000 to $1,000,000. “We are serious about ending domestic violence,” she emphasised.
During the sitting, the Minister also tabled the Report of the Joint Select Committee established to consider the Anti-Sexual Harassment Bill.
She said debate on the Report and the amendments will begin at the next sitting of the House.
“The Report contains our recommendations following extensive consultations. When this Bill becomes the law, it will deal a blow to sexual harassment by bringing relief to victims, punishment to perpetrators, while acting as a deterrent to others. We know that members of the public are eager for the finalisation and implementation of the Anti-Sexual Harassment legislation,” the Minister added.
Ms. Grange said it is anticipated that passage of the Anti-Sexual Harassment legislation and the amended Domestic Violence Act will lead to an increase in the reports of cases of abuse, as victims who are now suffering in silence will be emboldened to make a complaint.
She argued that the strengthening of mechanisms to protect and help vulnerable women and men forms part of the Government’s and Ministry’s efforts to continue to improve services to victims, while working to improve protection mechanisms for the vulnerable and eliminate the violence.
“Key in the strategy to protect vulnerable women and girls is the strengthening of laws that serve as a deterrent,” she said.