THE legislative road has been paved for the decriminalisation of pepper spray in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Firearms (Amendment) Bill 2021 was passed yesterday in the House of Representatives with no objection.
The Bill was previously passed in the Senate unanimously.
In his contribution to the Bill, National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said there has been a steady increase in crimes against women and disclosed that the elderly are under attack in the capital city.
The minister said on Tuesday he had a meeting with the Downtown Owners and Merchants Association (DOMA) and “one of the matters that they complained of is the fact that there are elderly persons, particularly women, coming into the city to conduct their business affairs and there are young men robbing them of their pension, focused on them particularly at month end”.
Hinds said a few weeks ago he read about a young man being charged with sexual violence on an 81-year-old woman.
He did while there has been a decrease in particular crimes, there has been an increase in crimes against women.
He noted there was a total of 2,965 crimes against women in 2015 and some 3,431 in 2020.
Providing statistics, Hinds said:
*in 2015 a total of 20 women were murdered whilst 54 were murdered in 2020.
* In 2015 there were 83 shootings and woundings against women and 80 in 2020.
*there were 790 sexual offences against women in 2015 and 642 in 2020.
*In 2015 there were 65 kidnappings and some 40 in 2020.
* there were 1181 domestic violence cases against women in 2015 and 1842 in 2020.
Hinds said he proposes to use his office to ensure that he does all that he could towards the protection of women.
He added that on Tuesday he visited the electronic monitoring unit of the ministry and had a full understanding of how it works to protect women.
Pepper spray, Hinds said, is another way to protect women.
He said the public outcry is not new and the issue of pepper spray as one of the responses to the problem of violence against women has been with the country now for about ten to 15 years.
He noted that Opposition MP Khadijah Ameen spoke about insensitivity to gender issues and the question of abortion goes to the root of that.
“I want to ask her one question today: what is her and her leader’s position on abortion?” he asked.
Plaster on a sore
Speaking earlier, Ameen said the Government’s move to decriminalise pepper spray is a plaster on the sore of violence in T&T.
The Government, she said, has failed to keep crime and criminality under control.
She said, according to Trinidad and Tobago police statistics, in 2016 to 2020 a total of 2,477 rapes were reported.
She said non-governmental organisations (NGOs) suggest the number is higher.
She added that over 163 women have gone missing from 2016 to date.
She said there was an incident that took place when her son was in Form One when a fellow pupil was attacked by bandits in broad daylight on the way to school.
“That student was robbed and beaten and thrown in a drain. He was 13 years old, he ended up unconscious and hospitalised,” she said.
Ameen said there were non-functioning cameras at the intersections and there were no police patrols.
“So allowing persons to carry firearms and pepper spray and non-lethal weapons is a plaster for a sore of violence and criminality in Trinidad and Tobago that the Government must get more serious about,” she said.