Barbados Approves Protocol on Domestic Violence

Latin America & Caribbean

May 12, 2008 -- The Cabinet of Barbados has given the green light to the recently developed data collection protocol on domestic violence and stakeholders are expected to begin using it by August, 2008.

This disclosure has come from Acting Director of the Bureau of Gender Affairs, John Hollingsworth, who said the instrument was approved on March 18 this year, and over the next few weeks, key personnel in some agencies would be trained to use the form.

Financial assistance was received from the United Nations Development Fund for Women in 2005 to develop the protocol, and a series of consultations was held with the Bureau’s partners. The protocol itself was developed because of an identified need to monitor the impact of policies and programmes employed in the fight against domestic violence, as well as to establish incidence and prevalence estimates.

Barbados’ current data collection systems are said to be “inadequate due to under reporting, under documentation, administrative incapacity and a lack of appreciation for the use of statistics in the policy formulation and monitoring cycle”. Mr. Hollingsworth pointed out that the primary source of data was from police records, while some were also garnered from the hospital.

But, he noted, in the case of the lawmen, that information was only used to apprehend and bring charges against the perpetrators, while data from the hospital were used to determine and provide optimal patient care.

“As a result,” he stated, “we needed a more holistic and integrated response to address the needs of victims and the treatment and punishment of perpetrators, and this protocol will assist in filling this void.” According to the Acting Director, it would provide profiles of victims and perpetrators of gender-based violence, suggest factors that give rise to it, identify at-risk groups, and ascertain the correlation between domestic violence and other socio-economic and cultural factors.

The protocol, he said, would be tested for three months, then reviewed to assess its strengths and challenges, and tweaked if necessary. “A determination will also be made as to which agency will be responsible for collation and analysis of the data, but initially, the Bureau of Gender Affairs; the Bureau of Social Policy, Research and Planning; and the National Task Force on Crime Prevention will be responsible for it,” Mr. Hollingsworth remarked.

The organisations that will use the data collection protocol are the Welfare Department, the Poverty Alleviation Bureau, the Ministry of Health, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, the Royal Barbados Police Force, the Probation Department, the National Task Force on Crime Prevention, the Emergency Medical Clinic, the Business and Professional Women’s Club, and the Barbados Association of Medical Practitioners.

A meeting was recently held with stakeholders to update them on decisions pertaining to the document, and to iron out any issues that may affect its smooth implementation. For many years, concerns have been raised about domestic violence, which mainly affects women.

At the United Nations World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1985, the view was expressed that the incidence of violence against women was downgraded to a side issue of discrimination and development. As a result, the UN system undertook several ad hoc initiatives, over time, to bring awareness to this issue, striving to always keep it on the forefront of the international agenda. Barbados is a signatory to the 1979 Convention to Eliminate all forms of Discrimination Against Women and the 1994 Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violent Crimes Against Women (Belem do Para).

As a result, this country is obligated to play its part in ensuring that gender-based violence is eliminated. To this end, the Bureau of Gender Affairs has already commissioned a study on the social and economic costs of domestic violence, and is currently reviewing the first draft. Additionally, a survey is expected to be conducted during this financial year on the incidence and prevalence of domestic violence.

Indeed, government has been implementing a number of initiatives to reduce and weed out gender-based violence which can destabilise the economic and social progress the island has made over time. Barbadians are, therefore, being urged to support the data collection protocol, which is designed to assist government in better assessing this continuing problem in its social and economic aspects and so guide strategies to address it.

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