Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Senate Passes Sexual Offences Bill after Long Debate
Kindly sent by Jennifer Williams
Policy and Research, Bureau of Women's Affairs
Saturday, July 18, 2009
The landmark Sexual Offences Bill, which reforms and amalgamates various laws relating to rape, incest and other sexual offences, was finally passed by the Senate today (July 17).
The Bill will repeal the Incest (Punishment) Act, as well as several provisions of the Offences Against the Person Act. It also provides for the establishment of a Sex Offenders Registry, which will maintain a register of sex offenders.
It was passed in the House of Representatives on March 31, tabled in the Senate in April and the debate started in May. However, over a lengthy process in the Senate, 28 amendments were made before the Bill was passed.
These amendments cover a number of crucial provisions, including: violation of persons suffering from mental disorders; procuring violations by threats, fraud or administering drugs; abduction of children to have sexual intercourse; unlawful detention to have sexual intercourse; living on earnings from prostitution; and protecting the anonymity of complainants and witnesses.
The Bill also provides a statutory definition of rape, as well as provisions relating to marital rape, specifying the circumstances in which such rape may be committed.
It was piloted through the Senate by Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne, who is also the Leader of Government Business.
In her closing remarks, Senator Lightbourne noted that the Bill was examined rigorously by Senate, and that the members had, in large part, made useful comments on the provisions.
Senator Navel Clarke who spoke on behalf of the Opposition members, welcomed its passage. He described the Bill as being "in the interest of the people", and expressed the hope that the Senate will continue in that direction.