The Government of The Bahamas Monday appointed a National Task Force for Ending Gender-Based Violence in an effort to further address gender-based violence in the country.
Minister of Social Services and Community Development, the Hon. Melanie Sharon Griffin, said while there are several government agencies that currently address gender-based violence in one form or the other, “the government has determined the need for a more coordinated approach so as to achieve greater results.”
“Anecdotal data suggests that there is a high level of gender-based violence in The Bahamas often with fatal consequences,” Mrs. Griffin said.
“Gender-based violence, in its simplest form, is used as an umbrella term by the international community to describe any act of physical, sexual, emotional, psychological or financial abuse committed by a person of one sex against a person of the opposite sex or the same sex and includes intimate partner violence, rape/sexual abuse, child sexual abuse/incest, sexual harassment, sex trafficking and forced labour.
“It is a scourge that also impacts our regional countries as well as our international communities and we must, at this time, put our heads together and enlist all of our organisations locally to fight this ugly scourge,” Mrs. Griffin added.
Chaired by former Supreme Court Justice, Mrs. Justice Rubie Nottage, the Task Force will be responsible for developing and implementing a national strategic plan and other initiatives that address gender-based violence. (Dr. Sandra Dean-Patterson, a Consultant with the Ministry of Social Services and Community Development and long-time head of the Bahamas Crisis Centre and Dr. Robin Roberts, a noted physician, will serve as Co-Deputy Chairpersons of the Task Force.)
Minister Griffin said the Task Force will utilise the expertise of persons from government and non-governmental agencies such as the Department of Social Services, Urban Renewal, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Office of the Attorney-General, Ministry of National Security, Royal Bahamas Police Force, the National Committee for Families and Children, the National Child Protection Council, Salvation Army, Bahamas Crisis Centre, Bahamas Christian Council, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, Ministry of Health and the Bureau of Women’s Affairs, in addition to individual persons “to help get rid of this scourge in our country.”
A Ministerial Committee that includes Mrs. Griffin; Minister of National Security, Dr. the Hon. Bernard J. Nottage; Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, the Hon. Allyson Maynard-Gibson; Minister of Education, Science and Technology, the Hon. Jerome K. Fitzgerald; Minister of Health, Dr. the Hon. Perry Gomez and Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Dr. the Hon. Daniel Johnson, has also been appointed to have oversight of the National Task Force.
Additionally, the Ministerial Committee will oversee the implementation and coordination of the national strategic plan to address gender-based violence.
Mrs. Griffin said some of the goals and objectives of the Task Force are to assess and identify issues and priorities including sharing information and making recommendations about practices, policies and protocols, in addition to developing an efficient, comprehensive and coordinated national response at the system level as well as at the integrated case management level, and to facilitate networking between ministries, departments and NGOs working on gender-based violence.
Other goals and objectives include developing a surveillance system for the collection, analysis and protection of data and increasing public and professional awareness and education and to assess and strengthen the Criminal Justice response to gender-based violence through the Family Court System and by developing a strong cadre of victim support officers working in police and court systems; the establishment of a Sexual Offences Court System and the strengthening of the technology systems of the Criminal Justice System and other areas.
“We are approaching this at a very high level, involving our ministerial colleagues and of course their various ministries and responsibilities. The vision is a Bahamas free from gender-based violence,” Mrs. Griffin added.