New Model Guidelines for Sexual Offence Cases draws scepticism

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Caribbean model guidelines for sexual offence cases recently launched in Antigua and Barbuda has sparked mixed reactions among leading women in the twin island state. Stressing that the government is in full support of the guidelines, Attorney General Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin said, “the guidelines basically outline from beginning to the end, a process of how victims should be treated.”
Acting Director of Gender Affairs, Farmala Jacobs, in expressing approval of the innovative move said, “I welcome the model guidelines to Antigua and Barbuda, especially since it was announced that we are also going to be holding the first sexual offences court in the Caribbean. These guidelines were built on some very important international conventions.”
However, while Alexandrina Wong, president of Women Against Rape (WAR), believes that instituting the model guidelines in Antigua and Barbuda is an excellent initiative, she is doubtful that it will be successful. She cautioned that to be successful the guidelines have to be followed. During his address at the launching exercise, the attorney general said, “The government of Antigua and Barbuda is fully committed to its establishment and pledges to do all that is necessary to bring it to fruition in the shortest possible time.”
But past President of Professional Organisation of Women in Antigua (POWA), Valarie Hodge, was not impressed, she said, “My scepticism about that stems from the fact that it seems that here in this country we have lawmakers who appear forever willing to operate outside the law and the prescriptions of good governance.” Public Relations Officer of POWA, D. Gisele Isaac also expressed fear that it will “be appearances only” and that real prosecution will happen only for a selected few.
She said that she hoped that justice is fairfor all and not partial. She added that people need to have faith in the justice system. “We know the incidents of sexual abuse, especially of young people, is quite high in Antigua and Barbuda,” Isaac said.
(More in today’s Daily Observer)

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