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Protection against violence act does not deal with gender-based violence, needs amendments, says Barnett-Ellis



Tribune Staff Reporter

SENATOR Michela Barnett-Ellis said the Protection Against Violence Act needs to be amended because it does not deal with gender-based violence nor does it provide enough relief for women and girls.

“I am hoping and praying that we do see an amendment,” said the FNM senator, who said she has been aggressively approached on two separate occasions because of her views on marital rape.

Ms Barnett-Ellis said that these confrontations were by men who she believes felt comfortable doing that because of her gender.

“I also need the gender-based violence bill to protect people like me so if somebody acts up and loses their mind and attacks me, that there is relief out there for me and specialized relief,” she said.

Senator Ellis was the invited guest speaker at the Marco City FNM association's monthly meeting held at the FNM Headquarters in Freeport on Wednesday evening.

She said domestic violence has escalated to the point now where people are dying.

The passing of the Protection Against Violence Act just before the parliamentary session closed left many women advocacy groups and NGOs blindsided and upset.

Compared to the original gender-based violence bill, which consisted of 48 sections, the act is much shorter and consists of only 24 sections.

There is criticism that in the act the definition of violence is confusing.

Ms Barnett-Ellis said that at no time in the discussions about the Gender-Based Violence Bill did anybody say that there was a problem.

“Unfortunately, we come to the point where domestic violence has escalated and, yes, there is still the punching, but people are dying.

“But it is also about gender-based violence on the whole. And passing legislation about it, you are also acknowledging that it exists,” she stressed.

Senator Barnett-Ellis recalled two incidents when she was approached in public by men who were very angry and aggressive with her.

“I spoke at a convention about marital rape and after I walked to an open area of the ballroom, a man approached me and said, ‘you hate men', and he was very aggressive … and called me every name, but a child of God. In another instance, I was at the bank and this man who I had never seen before came at me, and said ‘You trying to break up marriages in The Bahamas, you keep talking about marital rape, you hate men so a man needs to just give you a good … you know.”

“My point is if I was a man, I can guarantee you none of them would have stepped to me like that.

“If some man came and attacked me in my home because I am an FNM senator and a woman … I would like to have relief available to me that I have some place to live while I deal with that trauma because every time I go home I will worry about the attack.

“We deserve better."

She added: “We have to continue to have a conversation, and we need to make sure we get relief out to as many people as possible.”

Following the passage of the act, Senator Barnet-Ellis said they have met the Minister of Social Services and have provided detailed notes of what is missing and what is needed to get the act where it needs to be.