The Judicial Reform and Institutional Strengthening (JURIST) Project in collaboration with the judiciary of Jamaica launched the Model Guidelines for Sexual Offence Cases in the Caribbean Region. The launch was held on Friday, November 24, 2017 at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston, Jamaica. Jamaica was the fourth country to launch the Guidelines and followed Barbados, Belize and Guyana.
Speaking at the launch, the Honourable Dr. Justice Zaila McCalla, O.J., Chief Justice of Jamaica said the creation and implementation of these model Guidelines will go a far way towards the improvement and management of sexual offence cases and the treatment of witnesses and survivors of sexual offences throughout the region.
“The crafting of these guidelines will assist in the removal of anomalies and facilitate the achievement of consistency, predictability and transparency in how sexual offence cases are handles. These Guidelines are therefore another important milestone in the continued modernization of not just the courts but our wide justice system,” the Honourable Chief Justice stated.
Her Excellency Laurie Peters, High Commissioner of Canada to Jamaica said that even though the CARICOM region has made progress in promoting gender equality, sexual violence perpetrated against women, girls and boys remains a significant problem. She noted that according to a 2007 World Bank Report, the Caribbean had three of the top ten countries with the highest incidence of rapes. The report also revealed that in nine Caribbean countries, 48 percent of adolescent girls’ sexual initiation was ‘forced’ or “somewhat forced.”
She continued: “a 2016 International Development Bank (IDB) funded report on Crime and Violence in Jamaica revealed that 59% of all sexual assault victims were girls between the ages of 10 -19 and almost 50% of women were forced into intercourse by age 20. These and other reports demonstrate that the region and Jamaica, experience high levels of sexual violence – the majority of which is underreported and ineffectively dealt with by the justice system.”
The High Commissioner added though that there have been improvements in the justice system’s response to sexual assaults and the survivors of sexual violence who seek redress from the courts. For example, the law in Jamaica, now places strict limits on the ability of defence attorneys to use the sexual history of the complainant to attack the survivors’ credibility; judges are no longer required to warn the jury about relying on the uncorroborated evidence of the complainant (this warning relied on sexist notions regarding the propensity of women and girls to lie about sexual intercourse).
Noting that Jamaica was fully cognizant of the need for a coordinated and sustained approach in addressing the serious, prevalent and deeply entrenched problem of sexual offences, the Honourable Olivia Grange CD, MP, Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sports said that sexual violence affects women, girls, men and boys. “All too often, the victims face a life of shame ad stigma, while several cases languish in the legal system for several years,” she lamented. She said the Guidelines represent the shared understandings and commitment of the Government of Jamaica around the imperative of eliminating violence.
Stating that from a gender perspective, girls are overwhelmingly sexually victimised in Jamaica, Ms. Claudia Fletcher, Executive Director, Eve for Life provided some sobering statistics. She indicated that the Office of the Children’s Registry (OCR) reports that girls are up to 12 times likely to be victims of sexual abuse than boys. Annually, Jamaica receives more than 3,000 reports of girls being sexually abused. Data from the OCR show that in 2013, there were 3,403 reports of sexual abuse cases. Of the reported cases, 88.4 percent were girls. More than half of that, 1,895 of all reported cases were carnal abuse (sex with girls or children under the age of 16). There were 374 cases of child rape and 129 cases of incest.
Participants at the launch also heard firsthand about the devastating effects of sexual violence from Ms. Monique McDonald who is a survivor of this heinous crime.
The Honourable Mme. Justice Maureen Rajnauth-Lee, Judge at the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) made an impassioned plea to stop the interrogation and blaming of victims of sexual violence. She also said that delays in dealing with these matters was the greatest enemy of justice. “We need to stop delays and better serve our people,” she asserted.
Dr. Penny Reedie, Project Director, JURIST hailed the development of the Guidelines as a major milestone in the life of the Project. “These Guidelines, are the result of hard work, dedication, and commitment to improve the management of sexual offences cases throughout the region and the treatment of survivors of sexual offences,” she said. noted.
The Guidelines are intended to provide internationally accepted best practices for the management of sexual offence cases, and offer a rights-based approach to the treatment of complainants and vulnerable witnesses, including children, involved in sexual assault cases.
It is hoped that the Guidelines will be adopted by all countries in the region and that its implementation will result in:
– speedy adjudication of cases and reduction of case backlogs over time;
– improved responses to survivors that will enable their full participation in the justice system, increase offender accountability and reduce secondary victimisation;
– a trained and skilled cadre of cross-sectional professionals including judges, court personnel, police and attorneys to efficiently respond to sexual assault cases, survivors and witnesses; and
– increased public confidence in the justice system as it relates to the handling of sexual assault cases.
The Model Guidelines for Sexual Offence Cases in the Caribbean Region is available on the
JURIST Project website at: http://www.juristproject.org/publication/model-guidelines