Jamaica’s Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen, has authorized significant amendments to the Domestic Violence Amendment Act, aimed at bolstering protections for victims. The announcement was made during the first sitting of Parliament for 2024, indicating a commitment to addressing this critical issue. Minister with Responsibility for Gender and Culture, Olivia Babsy Grange, announced the intention to bring the updated law into effect by Monday, January 22. Describing the amendments as a bipartisan victory, Grange highlighted key changes to protection orders, legally known as restraining orders. 

The amendments not only increase penalties for violating such orders but also extend the prison term to a year, up from six months. Furthermore, the revised law expands the eligibility criteria for individuals seeking similar protections, empowering the Children’s Advocate with enhanced authority to safeguard the nation’s youth. In a proactive measure, the government has initiated a public sensitization campaign to ensure widespread awareness and understanding of the new law. Last year, Parliament established a Joint Select Committee to review the Domestic Violence Act, last amended in 2004. Deliberations are set to commence in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the Joint Select Committee, responsible for reviewing the Criminal Justice (Administration) (Amendment) Act, 2023, proposes stricter penalties for individuals convicted of murder. 

The committee, actively engaged since April last year and receiving input from 11 civil society organizations, aims to address the issue comprehensively. For capital murder, where the current minimum penalty is 20 years before eligibility for parole or the death penalty, the proposed amendments could extend the prison term by at least 30 years. In cases of non-capital murder, including those related to domestic violence, where the current sanction is life imprisonment or a fixed term of no less than 10 years, the committee suggests a more severe punishment. Debates on these proposed changes are scheduled to continue next Tuesday.

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