Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson has prioritized Domestic Violence in her tenure and has set the enactment of the Domestic Violence (DV) Policy to a high level of importance. Minister Richardson called for a taskforce between Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA). The taskforce will curate workshops focussed on the required steps to complete the draft DV policy, and have the same approved by the Public Prosecutor and the courts. Once the policy is approved by the latter two bodies, it will be published in the National Gazette and is thereafter legal.
The taskforce held their first meeting on Friday, October 30, 2020, and will present the completed draft policy to both the Honorable Minister of Justice Anna E. Richardson and the Honorable Minister of VSA, Richard Panneflek within the coming weeks.
Along with the Domestic Violence Policy, Minister Richardson is also pursuing the establishment of the much-needed Victim Support Services (V.S.S.). V.S.S. is an organization that lends assistance to persons affected by heinous crimes, which accord are legally punishable by imprisonment of six years or more. Assistance is also offered to indirect victims: family members, those involved (during an abuse/domestic violence, fight or robbery) and related parties, in accordance with Article 206 paragraph 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.
Minister Richardson said: “Often times, when a crime is committed the focus is solely on apprehending (prosecuting) the perpetrator and no one focuses on the well-being of the victim. With the establishment of the Victim Support Services, this will remove the missing element within the Justice system”.
As Sint Maarten recognizes Domestic Violence and Gender Based Violence in the month of November, Minister Richardson thought it prudent to develop a calendar to further inform the public of all the activities that will take place during November geared towards spreading awareness. The theme of this year’s Domestic Violence awareness campaign is “Abuse is a crime, not an excuse.”
These activities include workshops to further develop and finalize the DV policy, training of the police department in handling DV calls and situations, and a presentation by visual arts student Ms. DaShaun Prince. Prince will deliver a Lecture Demonstration Autobiographical/Ethnographic Multimedia Performance concerning Gender Based Violence and Toxic Relationships entitled “The Forever that Never was”, at John Larmonie Center, Philipsburg. The event will have the welcome of guest Speaker, Ms. Cassandra Richardson, Gender Based Violence (GBV) Specialist, MSW/MA.
The calendar of activities goes on to highlight radio interviews with radio personalities Valerie Van Putten, Suppa Kid, Lydia Henderson and will also include programs on the Government of Sint Maarten’s official radio station SXMGOV 107.9FM. Events will also be hosted by VOICES Foundation, Safe Haven, Kalaboom Productions, and Yoga for DV and GBV Awareness (with certified Yoga Instructor, Nico Borgus), powered by Wildflower Institute.
Minister Richardson is encouraging teens and adults (both male and female) to report anyone who may be causing you harm. Perpetrators must realize that being abusive to others is against the law and as such is punishable.