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Bar Assn to offer free legal services to domestic violence victims

Published:Saturday | November 13, 2021 | 12:10 AMJudana Murphy/Gleaner Writer
Joyce Hewett, executive director of Woman Inc, and Alexander Williams, president of the Jamaican Bar Association, signing a memorandum of understanding to launch an initiative to provide free legal services for women affected by domestic violence, at the J
Joyce Hewett, executive director of Woman Inc, and Alexander Williams, president of the Jamaican Bar Association, signing a memorandum of understanding to launch an initiative to provide free legal services for women affected by domestic violence, at the Jamaican Bar Association offices on Harbour Street in Kingston yesterday.

Jamaican women who are victims of domestic violence will be able to receive free legal services following the signing of a memorandum of understanding yesterday between the Jamaican Bar Association (JAMBAR) and Woman Incorporated.

The partnership is for an initial three years and is renewable.

One in every four Jamaican women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence.

JAMBAR President Alexander Williams shared that the association will assist and protect victims navigating the legal landscape from the time they choose to make a report to the police, or from the time they realise that there is need for a legal solution to their dilemma.

“The assistance will be in the nature of representation in the civil courts for the usual family law claims, protection orders, custody maintenance and financial provision applications. It will also include watching criminal proceedings on the victims’ behalf and assisting with mediation, where appropriate,” Williams said.

Woman Inc Executive Director Joyce Hewett welcomed the partnership, noting that she has two cases waiting.

She said based on the current need, it is estimated that eight women will access the service each year.

“We see the women who come with the scars. We see the women whose entire demeanour is in a state of hopelessness and helplessness as a result of violence. This move by the Bar Association is one major partnership that we will ensure grows in strength. We will not allow it to go by the wayside,” Hewett said.

Pathway to justice

The executive director asserted that women will finally have a pathway to justice, as it was once a dream deferred.

Meanwhile, director of the National Shelter Programme, Dr Tamika Peart, who gave remarks on behalf of Gender Minister Olivia Grange, noted that domestic violence is a vexed issue in Jamaica.

Peart reasoned that studies by the Bureau of Gender Affairs found that the availability of pro bono gender aware legal services is a major gap in the system.

“As many women want to flee abusive relationships but cannot afford or access representation and they are oftentimes intimidated by the justice system and unfortunately, based on what we have received from our unit, the requisite advocacy at times is not at the right level,” Peart explained.

“Helping persons post-victimisation continues to be the hallmark of how Jamaica must respond to domestic violence and other types of gender-based violence,” she added.

Peart noted that the project has the ministry’s unreserved support and it will assist in any possible way to help to successfully meet the deliverables of this project.

judana.murphy@gleanerjm.com