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The Prevalence of Domestic Violence in Trinidad and Tobago

Updated: Jun 3


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Gender-Based Violence

There is a need for greater intervention in respect of domestic violence in Trinidad and Tobago. The most common form being intimate partner violence, in respect of which women are disproportionately affected.  Moreover, the existing legal framework does not provide adequate protection for the victims of Intimate Partner Violence.

 

Prevalence of Domestic Violence in Trinidad and Tobago

In Trinidad and Tobago according to Section 3 of the Domestic Violence Act Chap. 45:56 (“the Act”), domestic violence includes physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological or financial abuse committed by a person against a spouse, child, or any other person who is a member of the household or dependent.

 

According to a report in 2018, Gender – Based Violence in Trinidad and Tobago published by the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Office of the Prime Minister (Gender and Child Affairs), there were approximately 19,078 reports relating to domestic violence between 2000 and 2013 and approximately 75% of said reports were related to females. The report further stated that that for the same period, there were 131 domestic violence deaths, of which 56% were female.

 

Moreover, an article published in the local newspapers on February 08, 2020, quoted statistics from the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s Crime and Problem Analysis Branch (CAPA), which stated that the National domestic violence hotline received 25,257 calls between October 2013 and September 2018.

 

Other reports published such as one by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), revealed that in Trinidad and Tobago one in three women in intimate partnerships report having experienced intimate partner violence. The report also noted that there was a 140% increase in cases of abuse of women and girls reported to the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) in 2020, compared to the same period in the previous year.

 

In March 2022, the Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh announced that between March 2020 and March 2022, 6250 domestic violence reports were made to the police, the majority of which were intimate partner violence in nature. The Minister also revealed that data from 2017 showed that 30% of all women in intimate relationships would have experienced physical or sexual abuse at the hands of their partners.

 

What legal recourse is available to victims and survivors?

Pursuant to section 4 of the Act in Trinidad and Tobago, victims of domestic violence may apply to the court for a Protection Order.  Protection orders are issued by a court as a preventative measure against future instances of abuse. According to section 6 of the Act, the said Protection order may prohibit the respondent from inter alia:

  1. Engaging or threatening to engage in conduct which would constitute domestic violence towards the applicant;

  2. Being on premises specified in the order, that are premises frequented by the applicant;

  3. Engaging in direct or indirect communication with the applicant; and

  4. Being in a locality specified in the order; and approaching the applicant within a specified distance.

The effectiveness of protection orders is often questioned as there are instances where said orders are breached, resulting in the murder of the victims. One such instance is the murder of a young woman and her mother in January of this year. According to the local news report, a man known to the victim jumped the wall of the premises and shot both women before escaping. A person closely related to the victim said the incident was the result of a bitter separation between the victim and the suspect and claimed the suspect made threats, which led to police reports being filed and a restraining order being sought for her protection.

 

A week after the above murder, another local news reported that the attacker was charged with the double murder. Investigators stated that the gun used was not a personally issued weapon obtained via a Firearms Users License (FUL) but a military-issued gun. The Law Association in the country also raised concern over the murders of the mother and daughter, noting that despite breaching a protection order, the suspect was not ordered to surrender his firearm, as is necessary under section 6 of the Act.

 

Effects of Intimate Partner Violence

This is a sad reality for many victims in the country as violence against women has both long- and short-term economic effects. In the short term, victims are likely to work fewer hours and to be less productive when they do work. Long term, high levels of domestic violence can decrease female participation in the workforce and minimize women’s acquisition of skills and education. Overall public investment may also decrease when more resources are expended on health and judicial services. Furthermore, the emotional and psychological trauma not only on the victims but their family and the wider community cannot be ignored. The rates of depression and anxiety disorders are higher in women who have experienced violence.

 

Recommendations

Victims of intimate partner violence are faced not only with issues of safety but also declining mental health. Due to the complex nature of the predicament faced by victims, any effective solution would be multi-faceted. The Trinidad and Tobago Family Law Association has recommended that those accused of domestic violence, who are in possession of a firearm, should be made to surrender same as a prerequisite for bail; and matters of serious domestic violence should be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions to determine whether other serious criminal offences have been committed.

 

In addition to the above, the state should provide safe housing for victims in respect of whom criminal proceedings have been initiated, for the duration of the proceedings. There should also be plan for the victims, should the said criminal proceedings be determined in the abuser’s favour. Moreover, there should be a policy for the provision of additional security to the places of employment of victims who are employed. As it pertains to the victims’ mental health, victims should be afforded continuous access to mental health professionals with experience in treating victims of Intimate Partner Violence.  




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