Gov’t initiates talks to amend Sexual Offences Act of 1995

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Key stakeholders in the Ministry of Legal Affairs, as well as representatives from IMPACT Justice, have started the process to review the Antigua and Barbuda Sexual Offences Act of 1995 with the aim of making significant changes.

The first consultation was held on Monday. The meeting, chaired by Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin, included Regional Director of IMPACT Justice, Professor Velma Newton, and Director of Law Reform Adlai Smith, as well as other legal luminaries. The group discussed in detail the proposed amendments, suggestions and identified areas that must be examined with urgency.

The topics included rape, incest and other sexual offences, and the establishment of a registry was also placed on the agenda. The Attorney General said the existing laws are archaic and the government intends to make adjustments, consistent with what is taking place in today’s society and in keeping with changes in other developing territories.

“We had a very detailed and informative meeting where we are going to look at the laws and have them changed. We intend to have public consultations to invite comments because there will be material changes which could impact upon one’s concept of what sexual activity in a marriage ought to be,” Benjamin said.

Referring to this particular issue, Benjamin said under the existing law there are only two circumstances under which a husband can rape his wife, but this will be further defined in the amended version of the Act. “We are also looking at incest and other areas in which some mothers engage their daughters in sexual activity to support families. We will be creating a charge for that. We will also be looking at other aspects of the law with the exception of buggery,” the AG said.

Representatives from IMPACT Justice will also be assisting Antigua and Barbuda with the training of personnel and public sensitization campaigns with regards to legislative reform. The amendments to the Act are expected to be completed and tabled before Parliament by September 2019.

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