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Jun 29, 2005

Domestic violence laws to be upgraded

Story PictureDomestic violence: while it’s no longer a dirty little secret, the mere fact that the topic is openly discussed has not necessarily made it any less a problem. Authorities are still looking at ways to reduce the abuse and better deal with its consequences. News 5′s Jacqueline Woods reports.

Jacqueline Woods, Reporting
Thirty-four year old Delvorine Duheaney was partially blinded after her common-law husband threw acid in her face. The incident was part of a pattern of domestic abuse Duheaney endured during the seven years the couple lived together.

Delvorine Duheaney, Survivor, Domestic Abuse
?My reason for staying in that relationship was because of fear. But I am glad I had the courage and determination to get out and to stay out.?

?It was difficult for the first few years you know, trying to get out. But I guess at some point I decided that it was time for me to leave because I had a young child at the time she was only a year and a half and you know and sometimes you really get tired.?

There are no solid statistics on the extent of domestic abuse in Belize, but the Ministry of Human Development suspects the situation is not good. Last year during a planning session on child protection it was decided that the issue warranted a review of the Domestic Violence Act. A number of recommendations were made and today those amendments were presented.

Fiona Dempsie, Challenges Worldwide Volunteer, Women?s Dept.
?One of the most important recommendations is the need for more counselling and for the use of rehabilitation programmes. At the moment, counselling is not widespread throughout Belize; it doesn?t exist in the districts. We feel it is very important for the victim and for their family members to receive counselling. We?d also like to advocate for rehabilitation programmes. There is actually a provision for this in the Act already, but there are no rehabilitation programmes so we are unable to use that provision. So we would like to set up this, maybe on a pilot project in which we can then trial it and see how it is going to work, see how many people are attending, and whether or not we would be able to make these mandatory.?

Special attention is also being given to the strengthening of the National Women?s Commission in its efforts to address family violence.

Dolores Balderamos Garcia, Member, N.W.C.
?We are going to be getting some training in building our capacity to lobby, to advocate, to develop an action plan and training manual. And these are the things that we believe will enable us to do our work in a much more effective way.?

According to Duheaney, it is very important that support programmes become available to help women make it on their own.

Delvorine Duheaney, Survivor, Domestic Violence
?You know when you get out of an abusive relationship you really need to know that you are not alone. And not only that, that the laws are being enforced you know. Right now the Women?s Department and a few other organisations are doing, like having these meetings they are having right now to make changes in the justice system. So I think it is very good, it?s going to in the future work out much better for women who are going through these kind of problems, that they will know there is help out there.?

Duheaney?s former common law husband received only three years for the crime. Jacqueline Woods for News Five.

Some of the amendments listed in the presentation include expanding the range of domestic violence offences, better monitoring of family situations, and tighter restrictions on bail for offenders.

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