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May 18, 2018

The Fight against Domestic Violence and the Law

We have been reporting on the wide-ranging efforts of the humanitarian organization; RET International, in putting a dent on the reports of gender-based violence and trafficking in persons among other social issues. Today, it hosted a consultation in collaboration with the National Women’s Commission Department of Youth Services and Attorney Cynthia Pitts, to make information about the 2007 Domestic Violence Act more available to youths and victims of this condition. But there is much more to the topic, as News Five’s Aaron Humes found on a visit to the NWC’s office today.

 

Aaron Humes, Reporting

Domestic violence is never easy to understand, much less combat. The hope of organizations like RET International and the National Women’s Commission is that knowing the law will help current and potential victims to act quickly to escape. But first, says retired attorney, former Family Court judge and former Ombudsman Cynthia Pitts, we must all gain a greater understanding of what the society faces.

 

Cynthia Pitts

Cynthia Pitts, Legal Expert

“When I heard that it was a matter of making the law simpler, I began by asking them if they had seen previous publications where that very goal was to make it simple, and they said no; they hadn’t seen. Because the Women’s Department, they have tried to make it simple – they have produced handbooks and pamphlets. So this group of young persons, they are starting to do something which other persons have sought to do.  One of the [recommendations] that come up often is to have mechanisms that can record data, because we don’t really know the extent of the domestic violence in this country. And we all want to fix things but we want to fix things without having knowledge of how big the problem is and what the problem is and that is one of them, the data mechanisms.”

 

What it boils down to, according to RET’s Deadra Bennett, is making domestic violence victims and potential victims, many of them young, aware of their rights and protections.

 

Deadra Bennett

Deadra Bennett, Legislative Support Officer

“As individuals we all have rights, so we need to know what are our rights are and what rights that we are infringing upon and what rights protect us. So I believe the entire act we need to know, hence the reason why we didn’t just take one section of the Act; we are trying to do the entire Act, so that is what RET is trying to do; we want them to know that each part is important.”

 

Reporter

“Today’s consultation or meeting is with whom specifically and what are these persons going to be asked to do at the end?”

 

Deadra Bennett

“The meeting is with RET International in collaboration with the National Women’s Commission. And basically the National Women’s Commission is the legislative body; They will be the ones to guide us with the process because it’s youths. So we want that expert advice from the National Women’s Commission, which deals directly with these sort of issues.”

 

Pitts says awareness – and resources – need to be extended to those on the frontline, especially the Belize Police Department’s Domestic Violence Unit.

 

Cynthia Pitts

“In the Police Department there is a protocol, a domestic violence protocol that should be followed. Now I know there is a Domestic Violence Unit within the Police Department, but I don’t know if that protocol is being followed, so that is one area. There are protocols, but if these things are not followed then we are not giving the help that the women need. When it comes to shelters, there is only one shelter in the whole of the country; that is not good enough. That shelter has been there for years; and so is it that there has not been an increase in problems that the shelter can still remain the same? That is one of the things that the U.N. Committee has commented on, that there is a need for more shelters; there is a need to follow the protocol, there is a need for data mechanisms to be set up so that we know exactly what we are dealing with.”

 

Aaron Humes reporting for News Five.

 

Further sessions will be held before the final product is produced in a few months’ time.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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