Some members of the NGO Coalition
Some members of the NGO Coalition

The NGO Coalition for the Protection of Children and Youth says it "warmly welcomes" the passing of the Bill to amend the Sexual Offences Act that passed in Parliament last month.

"We are pleased that the Dominican Judiciary now have much tougher penalties available to mete out to those convicted of sexual offences," the NGO Coalition said in a press release. "This is particularly true for those who are repeat offenders. Another strategy for preventing repeat offences would be for the police to hold an effective Sexual Offenders Register."

The Coalition suggests that that registry should include pedophiles abusing children, adults exploiting teenaged girls and boys, family members or spouses.

"We hold that no one should have any sexual contact with another without consent, regardless of their gender, orientation, marital status, position of power or financial means.

"No one under the age of 16 can legally consent so all sexual contact with children is criminal".

In the release, the NGO Coalition said it pledges itself to campaign for a multi-disciplinary Special Victims Unit to be established that avoids re-traumatizing the survivors both children and adults.

"We call on the Police, the Welfare Division, the DMOs and the DPP's office to work together. We also call on Government to ensure that these their Child Protection Agents are properly resourced.

"We look forward to the time when it will be normal to conduct the Preliminary Inquiry as a Paper Committal whenever the defendant is accused of a sexual offence. This would avoid the current situation where victims have repeated traumatic visits to the Magistrates Court facing endless adjournments, cross examination and public shame.

"We call for an increased use of video recording so that the defense lawyers can cross examine the statements made at the time rather than seeking to intimidate and confuse the child witness months, and frequently even years, after the event. Video linking equipment is available and should be used to avoid the witness having to see the defendant or be intimidated by the defense lawyer in person.

"For those minors between 16 and 18, the law, as it stands, allows this age group to legally consent to sexual intercourse. However if they do not consent it is still rape. Minors between 16 and 18 are still the responsibility of their parents and cannot have medical treatment without parental consent. They cannot vote, drive or drink alcohol and, whilst they can legally create a child, we look forward to the day when Dominica follows Trinidad and clearly states in the law that sex is an adult activity.

"We welcome applications from registered NGOs committed to the protection of children and youth who also commit to mandatory reporting and best ethical practices within their own organisations".

The current membership of the Coalition is as follows: CARIMAN; Dominica National Council of Women; Lifeline Ministries (Chair); Love One Teach One;National Youth Council; East Dominica Children's Federation; West Dominica Children's Federation; Dominica Association of Craft Producers Association; Dominica Planned Parenthood Association;Dominica Association of People with Disabilities; Girl Guides (Vice Chair); the Social Centre and CALLS.