Pol­icy unit to in­ten­sify work on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence in 2019

Stabroek News Sunday - - WEEKEND MAGAZINE - By Olu­a­toyin Al­leyne

With 22 per­sons mur­dered as a re­sult of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence up to Novem­ber 30th of last year, Man­ager of the Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Pol­icy Unit Ak­i­lah Doris is cog­nizant that more needs to be done; she be­lieves all must work to­gether to fight this is­sue and there is need “to stop nor­mal­is­ing gen­der-based vi­o­lence on a whole.”

Ac­cord­ing to the fig­ures Doris pro­vided, 20 women and two men were killed by their in­ti­mate part­ners up to Novem­ber of last year.

She pointed out that sex­ual vi­o­lence, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and gen­der-based vi­o­lence are still largely un­re­ported be­cause of the stigma at­tached and this goes back to the cul­tural make-up of the coun­try.

The unit, which came into ex­is­tence in Oc­to­ber 2016, but was catered for un­der the 1996 Do­mes­tic Vi­o­lence Act is pol­icy driven. It is gov­erned by that piece of leg­is­la­tion along with the Sex­ual Of­fences Act of 2010. But ac­cord­ing to Doris it is not all about sit­ting be­hind desks and di­rect­ing pol­icy, they would often hit the ground as they seek to as­sist vic­tims.

“Even though we are not an op­er­a­tions unit we still chan­nel them [vic­tims] in the right di­rec­tion, we record ev­ery per­son who comes in and then we re­fer them to the re­spec­tive net­work for the re­spec­tive ser­vice they re­quire,” she told the Sun­day Stabroek in a re­cent in­ter­view.

The unit also has an open door pol­icy and per­sons who are in need of care pack­ages can ac­cess same right at the unit with­out hav­ing to go through red tape.

Im­por­tantly as well, with fund­ing from the United Na­tions Pop­u­la­tion Fund the unit last year started to co­or­di­nate an es­sen­tial ser­vices re­sponse for vic­tims and this will in­clude health, po­lice, jus­tice and so­cial ser­vices, all be­ing made “avail­able in a com­pre­hen­sive way”.

Work has be­gun in se­lected re­gions but this year the pro­gramme, dubbed the Es­sen­tial Ser­vices Pack­age, will be fully rolled out.

“This is to co­or­di­nate ser­vices…we are try­ing to elim­i­nate the bu­reau­cra­cies of them go­ing all over the place to get sup­port,” she said. While all the ser­vices will not be in one place co­or­di­na­tion will make it eas­ier for the vic­tim.

The unit has two trained so­cial work­ers, Doris and an­other the Pre­ven­tion Care and Ed­u­ca­tion Of­fi­cer, who in­ter­vene at times in terms of walk­ing clients through the process of seek­ing an oc­cu­pa­tional or ten­ancy orders and other re­lated ser­vices. And when the need arises they would go as far as ac­com­pa­ny­ing vic­tims to po­lice sta­tions and health cen­tres, though this is out­side of their man­date. Where there is need they at­tempt to fill it.

At the mo­ment the need to do more than pol­icy is so great that Doris said this year will see them “get­ting our feet wet” as it is recog­nised that set­ting and de­vel­op­ing pol­icy are all well and good but the poli­cies must speak to the is­sues of peo­ple.

And if rec­om­men­da­tions are made for pol­icy de­vel­op­ment then the peo­ple them­selves have to be heard from in terms of what the is­sues are and how they should be ad­dressed. This ap­proach will not see just the vul­ner­a­ble and marginalised com­mu­ni­ties be­ing tar­geted but com­mu­ni­ties across the board as all are af­fected by vi­o­lence.

“We have to change the stereo­types… in terms of view­ing do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. It is not a poor peo­ple is­sue, it is not an African is­sue, it is not an In­dian is­sue, it is a Guyanese is­sue, it is a global is­sue and it af­fects ev­ery­body,” Doris stated.

This year will also see the es­tab­lish­ment of the unit’s hot­line for do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

Spe­cialised unit

Ac­cord­ing to Doris, the unit came into ex­is­tence fol­low­ing the Min­istry of So­cial Pro­tec­tion’s recog­ni­tion of the cry for a spe­cialised unit that fo­cuses pri­mar­ily on sex­ual, gen­der-based and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

“It is a pol­icy unit which sug­gests that our work pri­mary has to do with re­view­ing cur­rent pol­icy and leg­is­la­tions, mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions for re­vi­sion of these le­gal in­stru­ments as well as the pol­icy

Dframe­work for ad­dress­ing these is­sues ,” she said.

Once the frame­work is es­tab­lished, Doris said, they would then work to­wards an op­er­a­tional plan to give the pol­icy life. The unit is also en­gaged in pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and aware­ness as it recog­nises that there can never be too much in­for­ma­tion and there is still a large seg­ment of the pop­u­la­tion that is ig­no­rant as re­gards the is­sues of gen­der-based and do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.

“More so we have the cul­tural im­pli­ca­tions where be­cause we have … a di­verse so­ci­ety where we have nu­mer­ous tra­di­tional cul­tures and new emerg­ing ones, we find that it is very dif­fi­cult at times to pen­e­trate the pop­u­la­tion and we have to keep re­vis­it­ing our strate­gies and our ap­proaches to en­sure that they are tai­lored specif­i­cally for the pop­u­la­tion,” she added.

She pointed out that there is now an emerg­ing Venezue­lan pop­u­la­tion and the unit has not moved to en­sure that some of its re­source ma­te­rial is in Span­ish. oris said the unit works closely with the po­lice not­with­stand­ing some of the chal­lenges they face. She was quick to point out that it is not a case of her jus­ti­fy­ing their chal­lenges, “but they have a lot of work to get done if we are go­ing to holis­ti­cally ad­dress do­mes­tic vi­o­lence.” She pointed also that the po­lice have Stan­dard Op­er­a­tional Pro­ce­dures that they should fol­low when a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence vic­tim makes a re­port and some sta­tions as well have spe­cialised units to take re­ports. How­ever, one of the re­oc­cur­ring com­plaints over the years is the pri­vacy af­forded to a vic­tim upon vis­it­ing the sta­tion to make a re­port.

“We recog­nise that the re­cep­tion re­ceived at the po­lice sta­tion many times it acts as a deter­rent to vic­tims com­ing for­ward and seek­ing the sort of help and jus­tice that they re­quire,” Doris ac­knowl­edged. In some sta­tions “lit­tle progress” has been made since “be­hind the build­ings, be­hind the struc­ture are peo­ple. We are the ones who pro­vide the ser­vice and we have to make con­ve­nient for clients and so forth,” she ad­mit­ted.

She be­lieves that “sit­ting and just say­ing the po­lice ain’t do­ing noth­ing” is not go­ing to en­gi­neer change but per­sons need to make re­ports when the po­lice do not op­er­ate in the cor­rect way. She said while there is in­deed a lot more work to be done with the po­lice, of­fi­cers are often ro­tated and as such train­ing has to be con­tin­u­ous.

Mean­time, in ad­di­tion to the sen­si­ti­sa­tion pro­gramme, the unit also has two ra­dio pro­grammes on 94.1 FM ev­ery Wednes­day evening from 7 pm to 8 pm and on the Voice of Guyana ev­ery Thurs­day from 7 pm to 8 pm. Both are call-in pro­grammes and she said the in­for­ma­tion re­ceived has helped to shape the di­rec­tion of the unit; she be­lieves that they have as­sisted more per­sons to visit the unit for in­for­ma­tion and as­sis­tance.

Also be­cause the ma­jor­ity of the per­pe­tra­tors of phys­i­cal vi­o­lence are men, Doris said they be­lieve that they can­not and should not pro­ceed with their in­ter­ven­tion un­less they strate­gi­cally en­gage men and boys.

“If we are say­ing that they are part of the prob­lem then they ought to be part of the so­lu­tion,” Doris said. And it was pre­cisely for this rea­son that the Men Against Vi­o­lence group was formed. It is made up of a group of men who are alarmed by the in­creas­ing rate of the vi­o­lence against women and have made a com­mit­ment to help the unit sen­si­tise the pub­lic in terms of bring­ing about at­ti­tu­di­nal and be­havioural change.

“The min­istry is very strate­gic in its ap­proach and it is a de­lib­er­ate ap­proach in terms of en­gag­ing men and boys at all lev­els. It is just the be­gin­ning and in 2019 I can as­sure you that we are go­ing to be in­ten­si­fy­ing our ef­forts and go­ing to go down into the grass­roots ,” she posited.

Upon many re­quests the unit has also been into work­places sen­si­tis­ing em­ploy­ees about do­mes­tic, gen­der-based and sex­ual vi­o­lence and what as­sis­tance is avail­able. It has also been recog­nised, ac­cord­ing to Doris, that sex­ual ha­rass­ment in work­places has be­come more preva­lent and in this year the unit plans to de­velop a re­port­ing mech­a­nism to track the num­bers so as to un­der­stand the per­cent­age of the

pop­u­la­tion af­fected.

Aware but not pre­pared

Sadly, Doris said, while many have the in­for­ma­tion they are not pre­pared to make the de­ci­sion to leave an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship and that is one of the con­cerns.

“But it is not our de­ci­sion to make be­cause when we think in terms of en­trap­ment, why a woman chooses to re­main in an abu­sive re­la­tion­ship we can un­der­stand with em­pa­thy that it is not easy leav­ing… some peo­ple have ties to ma­te­rial things… and they are not pre­pared to leave it for any­body else come and en­joy it. Some stay be­cause of their chil­dren, some they don’t have any skills, they don’t know where they can go to get a job. The sex is good for some that is why they say,” Doris stated.

She shared a sit­u­a­tion where one woman lost three teeth ow­ing to do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and the shel­ter was pro­vided as an op­tion but she re­fused to leave. An­other was beaten re­peat­edly and was even forced to run down the road naked but she also re­fused to leave. Some are not pre­pared to live in a shel­ter even though their safety would be guar­an­teed. Doris pointed out that it is the woman’s right to make that de­ci­sion and this is af­forded to them and the unit still at­tempt to help them to re­main safe even if they stay.

Apart from Help and Shel­ter’s home for bat­tered women, Doris said, there is also a shel­ter in Re­gion 6. It is yet to be oc­cu­pied as per­sons pre­fer the shel­ter in Re­gion 4, but it is hoped that through re­gional col­lab­o­ra­tion there will be a shel­ter in ev­ery re­gion. The Re­gion 6 shel­ter is the only gov­ern­ment-run one (the gov­ern­ment pro­vides a sub­ven­tion to Help and Shel­ter).

Be­fore com­ing to the pol­icy unit Doris worked at the Min­istry of Com­mu­ni­ties where she was a com­mu­nity mon­i­tor­ing and de­vel­op­ment of­fi­cer. “Work­ing at the grass­roots was re­ally my cup of tea be­cause I re­ally be­lieve that if we are go­ing to cre­ate change that is the level we have to start at in terms of em­pow­er­ing peo­ple and help­ing them to un­der­stand that you don’t need to wait on any­body else to come and de­velop you,” she re­lated. She was also a teacher for six years and had worked at Help and Shel­ter. Ac­cord­ing to the unit man­ager she is “pas­sion­ate about my job, I love my job.”

Ak­i­lah Doris

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Guyana

© PressReader. All rights reserved.