International Women's Day 2013

A Message from the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians,
Hon. Alix Boyd Knights, MHA, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Dominica

My dear Colleagues and sister Parliamentarians

Once again, I have the honour and privilege as Chairperson of Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians to convey special greetings of solidarity to my parliamentary colleagues and women everywhere, through this CPA website, on the occasion of International Women’s Day 2013.

This year, the theme is “A promise is a promise: time for action to end violence against women.”  I am sure we all agree that this theme is most appropriate, given the numerous, well publicised, incidents of savagery against females which occurred all over the world during the past year.  On each occasion there was a huge media uproar of indignation which abated in favour of more “important” (as deemed by the world press) international issues, until the next incident occurred.  I am sure too, that those of us, men and women, when we discuss this topic, have difficulty in doing so without a great deal of emotion, and as someone who has advocated for abused women and girls for the greater part of my life, I can attest to that on a personal level.

We all agree that something, everything, has to be done to end violence against women and girls.  But what?  It is useful to consider that most of these acts of violence are perpetrated by males and so it stands to common reasoning that if males are deemed to be part of the problem, then they must be part of the solution.  But I would like to put it to us all, to consider also that it is not only the male perpetrators who are at fault, there are others who, albeit perhaps inadvertently, contribute to the ineffectiveness of laws and other strategies intent on eradicating violence against women and girls.  I am thinking here of less than ardent, and incomplete if not outright incompetent, police investigations; Judges and Magistrates and Prosecutors who, in carrying out their duties, seem to demonstrate the view that some women “ask for it.”

Then we must ask ourselves: are the laws with respect to domestic and other forms of violence against women and girls adequate, and do these laws contain the necessary enforcement mechanism provisions within themselves?  But then again, adequate as laws may be, even amassing evidence, and considering the standard of proof required in criminal cases, may mitigate against obtaining a conviction.

It is therefore necessary to find solutions outside of the proverbial box to stop violence.  In this vein, I wish to offer a proposal which I call “Let the Pocket Pay”.

Encompassed in this proposal is the acknowledgement of the difficulties encountered in obtaining a conviction against an alleged perpetrator of violence against a woman or girl, the recognition that it may be easier and more practical to pursue the civil route of litigation against such an alleged perpetrator whereby the victim sues him civilly, with the attendant standard of proof for civil matters.

I am proposing further that legislation for such a proposal would of necessity include:

(1)   state provided legal aid to victims wishing to pursue this route;

(2)   substantial financial compensation to victims from the perpetrators;

(3)   where an alleged perpetrator, has admitted culpability so wishes, and the victim agrees, a mediation framework be established to determine the level of compensation to be paid as well as mandatory remedial counselling for the perpetrator at his own cost.

I am sure that there are many other ideas and suggestions floating around in the minds of concerned persons.  I urge us all to bring these suggestions and recommendations forward to colleagues.  All ideas must be allowed to contend.

And so, as we meet with our colleagues to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day, let us bear the theme uppermost in our minds as we motivate ourselves and each other to find effective ways to eliminate this scourge of violence against women and girls forever.