…media have long been blanketed from getting data and interviews
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - DOMESTIC VIOLENCE has always been a global issue and the twin-island Federation is within that bubble. However, after years of defening silence and non-providence of information, the Ministry of Social Services has decided to speak out.
Following Saturday's stabbing incident that left 36-year-old Okino Wellington dead, reports surfaced that he might have allegedly abused the perpetrator who inflicted the fatal wounds.
In a press statement yesterday (Sept. 22), the Ministry of Social Services expressed profound sadness at the incident of domestic violence that resulted in the death.
“As condolences are extended to the family of the deceased, the Ministry and Government of St. Kitts and Nevis asserts its condemnation of all acts of domestic violence, sexual harassment and abuse. It remains a priority for the Ministry to support victims, survivors and their families who experience abuse of any kind. In the provision of human services, social protection and support for the survivors and victims of domestic violence in St. Kitts and Nevis, the Ministry recognizes the importance of strong legislation to address the reality of abuses experienced by women, children, and older persons in our communities,” the statement read.
But even as the Ministry speaks on this incident, it has come in for heavy criticisms over the last several years from sections of the media for its continued silence on issues and the difficulty of accessing information or comments from personnel within the government agency.
This media house and several others had on numerous occasions sought interviews and requested other information from the relevant personnel of the government agency to draw attention to domestic violence within the Federation, more specifically in St. Kitts, to no avail.
This is similar to the acquisition of pertinent information from the Government in which media practitioners encountered stumbling blocks due to the bureaucratic channels.
On the topic of domestic violence, media practitioners have been told on numerous occasions that they must first get approval from the Permanent Secretary to be provided with information and, more so, interviews.
Now that the Federation is mourning the loss of another life and discussions continue surrounding domestic violence, this question remains to be answered: “Will the Government provide more access to information to raise awareness on the topic?”
The Ministry is now thrusting ahead with getting proper framework to combat the issue that has been prevailing in St. Kitts and Nevis for many years, and which was reportedly amplified during the COVID-19 pandemic when families were locked indoors.
“As we respect the jurisdiction of the police and court to investigate and adjudicate the recent incident with fairness and compassion, the Ministry acknowledges and advocates for legislative, institutional, and systematic reviews, required to improve the delivery and effectiveness of social protections provided to individuals experiencing violence and abuse.
“The Ministry of Social Development and Gender Affairs et al. and by extension this Government firmly believes that all citizens, regardless of sex, gender, race, status or affiliation, are entitled to live without fear and in safe environments,” the statement read.
The fight has been challenged by the lack of facility to provide assistance and move individuals from abused environments.
However, the ministry is encouraging those being affected, including men, to contact appropriate services including the Department of Gender Affairs at 765-5492, the Special Victims Unit at 665-3091, the Legal Aid Clinic at 869-467-1572 and the National Counselling Centre at 465-5000.