Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
POINTING TO the need for greater legislative protection for women and children, Opposition Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith has called for the establishment of a join select committee to suggest amendments to existing legislation.
Johnson-Smith said the committee should consider amendments to the Offences Against the Person Act, the Sexual Offences Act and the Child Care and Protection Act and arrive at appropriate punishments for crimes such as the murder of women and children, sexual offences against children, and the abduction of children.
"If we think it important for our women and children, then let's make the laws better," Johnson-Smith told The Gleaner on Friday after giving notice of her motion in the Senate.
The senator argued that there has been an unprecedented number of murders of pregnant women in the past 12 months, and noted that more than 1,600 children were killed in the past 12 years. She also said there has been an increase in the incidence of barbaric attacks against women and children.
"There needs to be a broad review on how we are dealing with punishment," she noted, pointing, for example, at capital offences.
"Nowhere on the list of capital offences are women and children mentioned and so as a signal of the importance of women and children, and as a matter of policy, it is not sufficient for us to express outrage. Let's look at the matter of legislation," Johnson-Smith said.
She pointed, for example, at the recently passed regulations which have paved the way for the creation of a sex offenders' registry as being one of those areas in need of attention.
"I don't understand why the criteria that are going to be put in the register don't include whether an offence has been committed against children and I don't understand why first-time offenders can be exempted from being placed on the register," Johnson-Smith said.
She added: "What if a man has raped a three-year-old child?"
Some crimes not addressed
The opposition senator also argued that the law does not go far enough in addressing crimes such as incest.
"It is defined in a way that does not allow for same-sex offences. How are we protecting our boys?" she queried.
Addressing the matter of same-sex in crimes of incest, Johnson-Smith said the essential issue is about protecting children.
"I would think that the legislation needs to include those circumstances, so it needs to expand the definition of incest," Johnson-Smith said, adding that if the Parliament is serious, then it should consider reviewing the laws.
"We have to look at these offences and ensure that we are dealing with them as effectively as possible and not just express outrage," she told The Gleaner.