Speech presented in parliament by the Opposition leader on the Penal Code (Amendment)(Sexual Offences) Bill 2016
THANK you for giving me the opportunity to speak on this very important bill, the Penal code (amendment) (sexual offences) bill 2016.
On the outset I would like to thank and congratulate the DCC Government for bring this very, very important bill to parliament.
The hard working Minister, the Law reform commission and all the technical people whose effort have resulted in this comprehensive bill must be applauded for your great efforts.
Your esteem efforts will now ensure that this country have the ferocity in its laws to deal with those among us who think they can rape or sexually abuse others and go unpunished.
Firstly there is common knowledge that the country’s statistics in rape and sexual offences as reported in various reports is alarming, a rather sad reality for a country that profess itself as a Christian country.
However, we must face this reality and pass this bill to help address this issue and deter the minority among us who continued to have this no care attitude towards rape and sexual abuse and violence.
We know that Sexual violence has a profound impact on physical and mental health.
As well as causing physical injury, it is associated with an increased risk of a range of sexual and reproductive health problems, with both immediate and long-term consequences.
Its impact on mental health can be as serious as its physical impact, and may be equally long lasting.
Deaths following sexual violence may be as a result of suicide, HIV infections or murder. Sexual violence can also profoundly affect the social wellbeing of victims; individuals may be stigmatized and ostracized by their families and others as a consequence.
This is a glimpse of the hideous and pathetic reality of rape and sexual violence.
Sir in supporting the bill, allow me to say this Mr Speaker.
As a society it is no longer time to sit quietly and say it’s none of my business.
No Speaker, it’s time that we have to face our reality and do something about it, like what we are doing right now.
It is time for all of us, individuals, communities, churches institutions, education institutions, sports institutions, government institutions and the rest to act up, to speak up, take responsibility, do what you got to do, be active, stop being defensive, stop being judgmental and stop being delusional.
Sir my message is this; let’s get out of all these and face our reality today.
It is now time and right time we pass this law to protect our love ones and the weaker in our society from the abuse by those who think they can do these violence acts with impunity.
Sir the issue of negative attitude and the need to change of culture towards victims of rape and sexual violence is something that is still there and strong in parts of our society.
What I am referring to here Sir is all that indifference, all that inaction, all that turn your blind eye. Sir sexual assault is pervasive because our culture still allows it to persist.
According to the experts, violence prevention can’t just focus on the perpetrators and the survivors. It has to involve everyone.
And in order to put an end to this violence, we as a nation must see it for what it is: a crime. Not a misunderstanding, not a private matter, not anyone’s right or any woman’s or girl’s fault.
And bystanders must be taught and emboldened to step in to stop it. We can only stem the tide of violence if we all do our part.
So I said to you all Solomon Islanders, men and women of all works of life.
Let’s face our fears, face our greed and do something that will ensure this bill when it became law it will be our responsibility to ensure that it does exactly what is it is created for.
And we must also take responsibility to ensure the law is understood right across the country, from East to West and from North to South.
For I believe that is truly how we the people of this nation should act to serve our nation and to make it a better place to live.
Sir coming back to a number of issues raise in the Bills and Committee Report, one that is very important is in relation to the question of sentencing and mitigation.
As has been highlighted by the report there is need for greater exploration of these matters so that we have a set of law and the whole scheme of lawful arrangements that works in tandem.
As the elected assembly of the people of Solomon Islands we have a solemn responsibility to push these boundaries so that at the end we create laws and supporting mechanisms that is clear, precise and trustworthy by our people.
Laws and the mechanisms that are created to support implement judgements are of little value if they are not delivering against the expectations of the society in which they are created to safe guard.
In this regards I call on the government and the responsible ministry to continue with efforts to explore opportunities that would provide the most appropriate and desire sentencing guidelines and other related scheme of arrangements that would enable such inadequacies in our justice system is properly and effectively addressed.
A suggestion for a sentencing act is something that must be seriously looked into. We must do away with the attitude of waiting for another decade on something that is so important to ensure justice is properly done.
For what is right and proper for the betterment of our justice system and the people of Solomon Islands cannot be arbitrarily overlooked for some unknown reasons.
Mr Speaker, little it may, rape and sexual violence also has economy implications for the economy of the country as well.
Not only that the justice system will have to borne the cost of administering the justice which is already costly.
But a single act of violence against a woman may result in complete absence from work, lower productivity, increased down time while at work and administrative costs to process the absence.
An in addition the lingering impact lowers women’s earning potential, which affects tax revenue and the country’s gross national product if we would like to put this in a broader picture of things.
In this grand scheme of things, violence against women especially those working in formal sectors surely will have an impact on productivity, efficiency and work flow.
In the private sector this may lead to victimization of women and in my view the private sector does need to play a supporting role in addressing the issues of sexual violence against women.
While there is still need for proper research on this front, it would be important to have some kind of measurement in terms of monetary impact of violence against women to the private sector.
I believe even in a dual economy like ours, having that sort of measuring mechanism would allow the private sector to participate more or pay more greater attention on this issue and would take a more prominent role in the fight against sexual violence.
Lastly but not the least Mr Speaker, while we continue to make this laws there is absolute necessity that funding and technical people are put in place to ensure the law is effectively implemented.
At the moment sadly, financial support towards church and NGO instructions that have taken up the role of supporting victims of sexual violence is not adequate.
Thus with this law the state will have to find a more robust scheme of arrangement to ensure proper financial support is given to the institutions that so far have played the important role of supporting the victims.
Mr Speaker I think I have said what I would like to say so I support the motion and resume my seat.
By JEREMIAH MANELE