People Against Domestic Abuse (PADA) founder Dr Kamane Soman has welcomed the passage of legislation to allow members of the public to use pepper spray to defend themselves against predatory criminals.
The legislation, the Firearms (Amendment) Bill, was passed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday last week.
It was passed less than six months after the kidnap and murder of 23-year-old court clerk Andrea Bharatt.
The young woman disappeared after entering a taxi in Arima on January 29.
Her body was found down a precipice in Aripo on February 4.
Three months before, on November 29, 2020, schoolgirl Ashanti Riley, 18, also disappeared after entering a taxi in San Juan.
She was found dead on December 4 in a bushy area in Santa Cruz.
PADA, which was established in 2016, to provide counselling, mediation and court support to victims of abuse, had joined other civil society and religious bodies in condemning the gruesome killings.
Soman believes pepper spray will help people, particularly vulnerable women, to defend themselves against criminals.
“Like everything, I believe with the proper training it can be useful,” she told Newsday.
“I, personally, am in favour of the pepper spray with the proper training.
One of the benefits of pepper spray, Soman said, is that it is portable and can easily be carried in a handbag.
She added it can also be easily concealed.
“Pepper spray is an excellent, non-lethal alternative to carrying a firearm.”
But Soman warned that pepper spray may not work on everyone.
She cited people with severe mental illness and altered states of mind, owing to illegal narcotics use, as examples.
Soman said pepper spray can also be difficult to deploy in a stressful and violent situation.
“Your target area is mainly the eyes and if the perpetrator is wearing glasses or pulled over mask it will be difficult in a stressful situation to deploy.”