One in every two women in Guyana between the ages of 15 and 60 has experienced domestic violence at some point in their life, which is a rather high prevalence for the region.
Along with the inability of the present Domestic Violence Act to stop the problem, these data are a major source of worry for the administration.
Anil Nandlall, SC, Attorney General and Minister of Legal Affairs, has indicated that efforts are being made to entirely rewrite the Domestic Violence Act of 1996.
It will be repealed and a new Family Violence Bill will take its place. As early as November 2022, consultations were held on the new Bill and earlier this year, Nandlall had said that work was progressing on drafting the new law.
During a live broadcast of his “Issues,” Nandlall stated that this new Bill is meant to fix every flaw in the existing Act.
He reminded that while the Domestic Violence Act was groundbreaking when it was put in place in 1996, three decades later, it has become old and outdated.
“…After three decades, we see its weaknesses,” Nandlall said while pointing out that domestic violence has not been reduced by any measure in Guyana.
“The Act was essentially legislation in civil law, the new Bill will have both civil and criminal remedies.
“Before, nobody went to jail or could have gone to jail under the Domestic Violence Act.
“This new Bill took a lot of provisions from USA… it will be very penal and very harsh,” Nandlall explained.
Currently, the Domestic Violence Act of 1996 affords protection by the granting of protection orders, and providing the Police with powers of arrest.
The Attorney General said the new law will be strong enough to respond to this social problem that has caused the loss of lives and much anguish for families.
Following its consultations in November 2022, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security drafted a Bill but it is now with the AG’s Chambers undergoing further work.
Attorney General Anil Nandlall, SC
A new draft “progressive” Family Violence Bill seeks to address shortcomings in the current domestic violence laws and implement “necessary” measures to tackle and eventually end Gender-Based Violence (GBV) in Guyana.
The new Bill will redefine interpersonal relationships, adjust powers ascribed to the Police and to the courts, and implement new punitive measures for perpetrators.
For example, it is usually at the discretion of the Police to pursue a report and a number of factors may influence this, including if the parties wish to reconcile. The new Bill, however, proposes that where certain criteria exists, that discretionary power can be removed.
Additionally, some survivors may frequently visit the courts in search of justice, yet they frequently experience the same problems.
The new Bill proposes discretionary powers for the courts to be able to take the matter further in these situations.
The draft Bill also proposes new punitive measures and expanded the meaning of interpersonal relationships to include the extended family when it comes to prosecution so more people can be held accountable.
Over 40 proposed amendments, including expansion of the definitions of ‘domestic violence’; inclusion of more comprehensive definitions of ‘economic, emotional and psychological violence’; updating the penalties for breach of protection orders; and inclusion of batterer intervention programmes and counselling as remedies under the law, were recommended.