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Crimes Bill needs change, says family welfare group

Friday March 23, 2018 Written by Published in Crime

The Crimes Bill 2017 needs changes to expand, clarify and update some of its provisions regarding sexual offences, says Cook Islands Family Welfare representative Polly Tongia.

 

At a meeting at parliament on Tuesday between non-government organisations (NGOs) and the select committee overseeing the bill, Tongia said the association’s consultations had found the definition of rape in the current Crimes Bill was “insufficient and limiting.”

“Considering that there is lots of documentation from the United Nations on developing legislation relating to sexual or gender-based violence, we were surprised by how that portion was drafted.”

Describing rape as simply an act that took place between a man and a woman was incorrect, Tongia said the reality was that males could also be raped, and that this act should be looked upon as a force imposed on another person, as an attack upon dignity.

She described other terms in the bill, which is currently going through the consultation process to modernise the Crimes Act 1969, as “unclear”.

The term “consent” needed to be redefined, especially in situations where alcohol was involved, as well as the expression “sexual connection”, which was misleading, Tongia added.

“To the young people we spoke to, the term sexual connection carries a positive connotation. In the context of assault, it assumed that there was a connection between the perpetrator and the victim,” she explained.

“When you define serious situations like this, you need a term that equals the act, so we recommend that it be changed to ‘unlawful sexual activity’.”

She said the main focus in the bill was on the sexual acts themselves, and not the long term effects that stem from them, and wondered if an allocation of resources for the post-incident services could be noted in the bill.

Deputy chairman James Beer said asking for an allocation of resources in the Crimes Bill was unlikely to be successful, as it would be more suited to an Act that focused on counselling services. Tongia acknowledged the association was probably not looking for an allocation within the bill itself, but that it should be noted in the legislation that services must be made available.

Chairman Mona Ioane then asked Tongia how she saw the law dealing with sexual offences online, as the new bill would need to reflect the realities of the modern world.

Tongia said though she had not had a chance to look over that issue extensively, she was impressed by the drafting of the bill, that online offences were even included, and that it should be adopted into the bill, especially with the Cook Islands soon to get a new submarine telecommunications cable.

The Crimes Bill has been given an indefinite extension to allow the bipartisan select committee to complete their community consultations.

It is expected the bill will be made into law at some point following the next general election.

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