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Jersey's government commits to tackling female abuse

Jersey's government has set out how it will address 'alarming' levels of violence against women and girls, with the Home Affairs Minister 'committed' to implementing a taskforce's recommendations.

Independent findings, published last November, detailed the 'shocking extent' of sexual harassment and abuse and called for an overhaul of legislation.

The government's response will be rolled out in three phases, all initiated by 2025.

Recommendations include law changes, awareness campaigns, education, training and practice and independent reviews.

The VAWG report suggested that there is a feeling of distrust in the island when it comes to institutions, and a reluctance of victims to speak out.

Deputy Le Hegarat says she does not believe things must be this way.

She said: "Only a few generations ago there was no thought of looking inside the home to challenge harmful or violent behaviour.

"As our social understanding has changed, there has been a dawning realisation that women cannot be treated as property, protection has been put in place against overt violence within the family, sexual autonomy has been provided for married women, and most recently, we have recognised in law that persistent levels of coercive behaviour cause life-long harm to the victim and the family."

Changes to the Law

The first recommendation is to align Jersey with the Istanbul Convention.

This includes improving data collection on VAWG and enhancing the Domestic Abuse (Jersey) Law 2022 by introducing emergency barring orders.

Women and girls will see more protection in public spaces, with the government aiming to strengthen the laws to combat sexual harassment. It will explore making it an offence.

READ: Many Women And Girls Are Fearful For Their Safety

The government also intends to include non-fatal strangulation in the Domestic Abuse (Jersey) Law 2022

Cyberflashing and the use of deep fakes, which are forms of online harassment, will become criminalised as well as cyberstalking.

The Home Affairs Minister recognises that it can be challenging for small jurisdictions like Jersey to regulate online platforms to the same level as the UK and EU.

The government is also working to make in-person stalking an offence, and whilst it is already criminalised under the Crime (Disorderly Conduct and Harassment) (Jersey) Law 2008, developed legislation will help to ensure the behaviour is successfully punished.

Education

Jersey's Education Minister Rob Ward and his department will be working on a plan to teach all islanders about Violence Against Women and Girls.

The department will work with schools and support services to develop the next steps and PHSE material, which will be regularly updated.

He said: "Ultimately, genuine change in this area will require a broader change in the culture of both schools and the wider community, which will in turn require support and engagement from the entire government."

Strategy

Out of the 77 recommendations given by the task force, 58 are directed at the government.

The Home Affairs and Justice report says they 'have not yet been able to make detailed plans to meet each one'.

The government is introducing annual progress reports and action plans to track how Jersey tackles the issue.

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