OPPOSITION Leader Kamla Persad-Bisessar has challenged the Prime Minister to bring the pepper-spray legislation to the Parliament and said it will get her party’s support.
However, she said the Opposition still has concerns about the Anti-Gang Bll which is to be debated in the Senate on Tuesday.
“I join my sisters and say legalise pepper spray now,” she said on an all-female virtual platform of the United National Congress (UNC) on Monday night in commemoration of International Women’s Day.
Both St Augustine MP Khadijah Ameen and Senator Jearlean John, who spoke before her, had called for pepper-spray legislation to give women a fighting chance.
Persad-Bissessar, the final speaker, endorsed their call.
Focusing on the numerous attacks against women, she recalled a report of a 70-year-old woman who was raped and told the audience that could have been their sister, daughter, mother, grandmother.
“Legalise pepper spray and let’s help our sisters, let’s help our women.
“Give us, as women, something in our hands, not to kill someone, but to give us a delay time to stay safe, stay alive, safe from injury.”
If Government is serious about helping the women of this country, she challenged it, “Bring the legislation. You want to bring law for everything. Bring the pepper-spray law now to the Parliament, bring it forward we will support it.”
On the eve of the funeral of kidnap and murder victim Andrea Bharatt, amid mounting calls to legalise pepper spray, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi had announced Government’s approval. He said he had already drafted the law, which is expected to go to the Cabinet this week.
Persad-Bissessar said that should have been the law being brought to the Parliament, instead of the Anti-Gang Bill, which she described as a “whole PR gimmick.”
She also observed that in 2021 there is still no gender policy, sexual harassment policy or equality of pay – all issues affecting women.
“You notice any time their (Government’s) backs are against the wall they dust it off and bring (an) Anti-Gang Bill.”
She said this law would breach the Constitution with respect to liberty, deprivation of property, and other due processes that are inherent in and subsumed under the rule of law.
“That law was there so long and you have not convicted one person. So don’t come and mamaguy people with your PR gimmick and crocodile tears in the Senate tomorrow (Tuesday).
“When you had that law on the statute books you have not been able to convict one person but you continue to try to fool people. You see that as a priority, but you don't see the law for the pepper spray as being an issue
“And you have some foolish ministers of government who say that pepper spray is more dangerous than a gun. These deadbeat ministers come with nonsense. I don't know why they feel they have to speak on everything when you're not qualified.”
Sharing her own experiences as a woman in education and politics, Persad-Bissessar said women had come a long way but still had far to go.