ST JOHN’S, Antigua – President of the Women Against Rape (WAR) group Alexandrina Wong has suggested reformation of the Sexual Offences Act as it pertains to the definition of various sexual offences and terms under the act.
“Legal reform is necessary at this moment and looking at some of the definitions that we have would certainly be the way forward. I would recommend that wholeheartedly. It is not only violence, but the threat of violence. For example, people see violence in only physical injury, but that broad definition should be much more inclusive of some of the situations that do occur where there isn’t any physical injury,” Wong said on OBSERVER Radio’s Big Issues programme yesterday.
Responding to a question from a contributor to the programme, she said the time is nigh to revisit the act and make similar changes to what the United States did earlier this year.
Unlike in Antigua & Barbuda’s sexual offences legislation, the revised definition in the US covers any gender of victim or attacker and includes instances in which the victim is incapable of giving consent because of the influence of drugs or alcohol, or because the victim is under the age of consent or is mentally or physically incapable of giving consent.
Physical resistance is not required. It also includes more forms of sexual assaults, such as the rape of men, oral and anal sex. Prior to the change, rape in the US was defined as the carnal knowledge of a female, forcibly and against her will.
Two years ago Guyana made similar revolutionary changes to its sexual offences legislation.
Wong also said statistics, though unofficial, have not shown a decrease in sexual crimes in Antigua & Barbuda.
In 2007, reported rapes reached a record-breaking 40 plus, and in 2008 and 2009 the police statistics showed very slight reductions.
Meantime, WAR Public Relations Officer Amossey Clarke has urged residents to show compassion to victims of sexual assaults and to give them the opportunity to express themselves as well as advise them on accessing professional counselling.
WAR, formed in 2007 following a spike in reported rapes in 2009, has been conducting several public awareness activities since the beginning of April, which was designated Sexual Assault Awareness month.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)