** Ministry of VSA and Justice sign policy to combat domestic violence, child abuse and gender based violence on Sint Maarten.**
On June 30th 2021, the Honorable Minister of Justice, Anna E. Richardson together with the Honorable Minister of Public Health, Social Development and Labor (VSA), Omar Ottley signed off on an official policy that was commissioned by both Ministries to strengthen government’s response to combat Domestic Violence (DV), Child Abuse (CA) and Gender based Violence (GBV) through legislation and procedures that prevents their occurrence.
The objective of the policy is to regulate the legal and social procedural actions to prevent, treat and punish the violence observed in this policy and is essential to earmark the various forms of violence and highlight the Government of Sint Maarten’s commitment to ensure that they are eradicated from our society.
To ensure such, the policy entails a categorization of violence by degrees. The three (3) degrees in which these violent acts can be distinguished are first, second and third degree. Each degree of violence is defined through the severity of actions and will be punishable by law in accordance to the penalties that are charged by it. Perpetrators of domestic violence and/or child abuse that have committed legal crimes in all degrees can face charges based on each degree, thus augmenting the punishment.
Minister Richardson lauded the commencement of this policy as a step in the right direction for the people of Sint Maarten. “Having such a policy in place ensures a level of responsibility is taken by the Government of Sint Maarten to address these issues and take measures to ensure a more safe and secure community. These atrocious actions that plague communities create long-term effects that we need to address now so that our communities won’t have to face them later or become victims.”
The Ministry of VSA is committed to being involved in addressing these negative occurrences which can have traumatic and extensive impacts on the victims of these egregious acts. “I believe that this policy is a milestone for Sint Maarten and I am honored to be a part of the process. These matters have always been areas of concern and this policy paves the way for implementing pragmatic and effective solutions.” stated Minister Ottley.
At current, there are 16 policy commitments, which together work to combat domestic violence, child abuse and gender-based violence. These commitments commence with the strengthening of the legal environment, but stretches to ensure better systems for prevention, protection, confidential reporting and treatment for victims, witnesses and the perpetrator.
It is the intention of the Government of Sint Maarten to provide better opportunities for children to grow up in a safer environment, especially in their own homes. In addition, we intend to change the behavior and attitude towards violence in our society for all persons regardless of age, gender, disability, income, ethnicity or other status.
By implementing an integrated policy as such, it has proven to lend its support to the Government’s policy on Sexual and Reproductive Health, Youth Policy, National Protocol on Child Abuse and Disaster Management.
Through this collaborative effort, Minister Richardson and Minister Ottley hope to be able to effectively enable a proactive approach that tackles the issue of Domestic Violence, Child Abuse, and Gender Based Violence, inevitably reducing the amount of victims and reports on the island.
“The finalization and ratification this policy is in perfect alignment with the finalization and the establishment of the Victim Support Services (VSS). This policy lends added procedural structure to the service and support that VSS will render to victims in our communities” stated Minster Richardson.
Both ministers have committed to taking all the necessary steps and have pledged to actively work towards ending this threat to the residents of Sint Maarten.
In closing, Minister Richardson and Minister Ottley would like to thank all civil servants and external partners of the Ministries who were a part of the process in having this very important policy developed.