Laws, which are a set of rules that govern the affairs in a State, are just one tool that can be used to protect others and prevent their rights from being violated. Nevertheless, this tool is very important and can be a double-edged sword. Some use the law to uplift, and some use the law to oppress.
Therefore, it is important that laws be continually reformed in order to ensure that they are being used for good rather than evil. It is important that laws be continually reformed in order to ensure that they are being used to uplift rather than oppress others. It is important that laws be continually reformed in order to ensure that they help us achieve justice. Law reform is very important in any democratic society, including St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).
Law reform can be defined as “the process of examining existing laws, and advocating and implementing changes in a legal system, usually with the aim of enhancing justice or efficiency”.
In the past, SVG was once a colony of the British Empire. Under the British Empire, many people were raped, abused, exploited, discriminated against, and killed. Brave men and women then fought for and demanded SVG’s independence, which was finally granted to it in 1979.
Today, while SVG is an Independent State, Queen Elizabeth II, represented by a Governor-General, is still the Head of State and much of SVG’s legal system continues to be stuck in its colonial past.
In 2022, SVG’s Constitution and many of its laws do not adequately protect others. Many laws are discriminatory in themselves or their effect, oppressive, and/or violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of Vincentians and individuals in SVG. At most risk are vulnerable groups of people in SVG such as women, children, the LGBTQ+ community, persons with mental and physical disabilities, and the elderly.
Section 37 of SVG’s Constitution states that “Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, Parliament may make laws for the peace, order and good government of Saint Vincent”. Over the years, parliament has made many reforms in SVG’s legal system but much more work needs to be done in order to better protect all persons in SVG.
In SVG, we need proactive legal reform. In SVG, justice is needed for many problems currently plaguing Vincentian society. Part of the solution to bringing justice in SVG is to create and enforce better laws.
Today, I encourage our leaders, especially those who compose parliament, to continue to examine our existing laws, and where possible advocate for legal reform with the vision for action to be taken to create and implement laws that are progressive and that better protect all persons in SVG, especially the most vulnerable.
Author: Jeshua Bardoo is a Vincentian Barrister-at-law and Solicitor. He is also the President of Equal Rights, Access and Opportunities SVG Inc. He can be contacted via email at jeshuabardoo