Something must be done …
Somebody has to do something …
Something has to change…
OUR heads and our hearts are still reeling from the horrible loss of Andrea Bharatt, after fervently hoping and praying things would not turn out the way they did.
Her death is the latest in a long string of cases where violence is being singularly perpetrated against women and girls of Trinidad and Tobago. Kidnapping, rape, brutal physical violence and gruesome death.
Thoughts and prayers are not enough. We need changes in policy and changes in the law. But saying something has to be done and saying nothing is the same. We need to spell out what changes we want, loudly and clearly. These are some of my suggestions:
- Create a special register for all drivers and their vehicles, who transport passengers for hire, PH cars included. Failure to register must be an offence with fine of no less than $250,000 or imprisonment for two years. Those vehicles must have affixed on its left front windscreen a unique barcode sticker that we can scan with our smartphones to verify registration and the photo identity of the driver. If everything checks out, we send this info to our family before hopping in.
- Fix the Sex Offenders registry now! The T&T National Sex Offenders Registry website can be found at https://sexoffenders.gov.tt/ The website is woefully lacking. You need to check it out yourself, to understand just how bad it is. Unless you have a specific name to check, there is no information to be gotten. We need this website populated with the names, photos, offences and whereabouts of all the sex offenders in the entire country now!
- Make catcalling women, particularly when they are walking in public areas and parking lots, a specific offence with a fine of no less than $15,000 or imprisonment for six months. We need to send a strong message to leave our women alone and let them walk to their destinations in peace.
- Increase the fines for certain summary offences commonly perpetrated against women by five times or more. Similarly, increase the terms of imprisonment. For example, section 30A(2) of the Offences against the Person Act, Chapter 11:08 fixes the penalty for harassment at a fine of $2,000.00 or imprisonment for 6 months. This should be increased to a fine of at least $10,000 or three years’ imprisonment.
- Make the penalty for rape life imprisonment, without the possibility of parole.
- All persons charged with sex offences, who are granted bail, should be tracked via electronic ankle monitors. Alternatively, make those offences non-bailable offences.
- Spell out specific action to be taken by the police, when a person obtains a restraining order. For example, the restraining order should be immediately taken to the area police station for registration into a computerised database, where all necessary data to identify the abuser and the victim are pre-recorded. This should include the victim’s address and directions to her home, if necessary, and photos of the both the victim and the abuser, if available. Protocols should be set up where police officers are immediately dispatched once the victim phones for help. Breach of a restraining order must result in arrest of the abuser, not a warning or inaction. Disciplinary action must be taken against police officers who breach the protocols.
Meaningful debate on these suggestions would be welcomed, but there can be no debate without first spelling out what we want. (Editor’s note: You can post in the comments section below).
Our systems are broken. They must be fixed. I imagine there will be serious repercussions in this country if our women and girls continue to feel unsafe, including extremely sharp declines in our marriage and childbirth rates. Let’s shake off the numbness and let our voices be heard. Speak up! Act! But above all else, be safe T&T.
Copyright © 2021 Neela Ramsundar, LL.B (HONS), L.E.C is a Civil Litigation Attorney at Law & Certified Mediator.
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