The government of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) says it is receiving assistance in its efforts to reduce family violence from the United Nations organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women (UN Women).
The BVI said in a statement on Thursday that UN Women consultant Jacqueline Sealy-Burke facilitated a series of meetings with stakeholders from Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 on the effectiveness of the court-mandated Partnership for Peace Violence Intervention Program in its legal context.
Stakeholders also participated in work groups to discuss the “do’s and don’ts” regarding reform on sexual offences, the statement said.
It said Sealey-Burke highlighted inadequacies in the handling of sexual offence cases in the region, and said law reform on its own is not adequate and must be accompanied by changes to the culture of the criminal justice system.
She said that the working group must also approach sexual offences from a systemic approach to effect needed change, according to the statement.
“Often, we approach black letter reform in hopes that it will change behaviors, and it won’t,” Sealey-Burke said. “You need to build on existing programs, training and judicial education to enhance law enforcement, prosecution and judicial officers’ expertise in dealing with sexual offence cases.”
BVI Gender Affairs Coordinator, Lorolie Connor said that due to a growing concern in the levels of violence against women and girls, particularly in the Caribbean region, UN Women offered support to the Virgin Islands to begin the process of legislation reform, towards the development of a Sexual Offences Bill.
She said the Territory will also receive assistance in implementing principles of equality and non-discrimination in the Territory’s justice system.
Connor said she looks forward to the work ahead in the development of the bill and the continued enhancement of the Partnership for Peace Program.
She said that although Part Seven of the Criminal Code addresses some forms of sexual offences, a comprehensive law is needed that addresses all sexual offences, especially when dealing with cases of incest, sexual exploitation of children in all forms and a broadened definition of rape.
The Partnership for Peace Violence Intervention Program is court mandated and is geared at decreasing men’s violence against women, the statement said.
It said the program also aims to decrease family violence with the core principles of victim safety and male accountability.