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Domestic violence bill needs to be seriously thought out

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There has been raging debate on the Domestic Violence Bill. As published, the bill seeks to outline what would constitute domestic violence by defining it as sexual, physical, psychological and economic violation.

To begin with, this is unacceptable as it will introduce third party speculations to determine the extent to which one can claim to have been abused. If the proposed amendment is passed as it is, it will only serve a section of domestic violence and lock out other cases which will not be considered as domestic violence.

While there may not be serious contention as to what would constitute physical abuse, it’s highly contentious to introduce aspects such as rape in marriage. How, for example, would such a case be determined between a husband and wife? Also, sexual matters are so personal.

For example, if there was sexual dysfunction in a marriage, would that constitute some form of abuse and therefore grounds for prosecution, conviction or even divorce? Further, the bill seeks to define economic abuse as a form of domestic abuse.

This is defined as the unreasonable deprivation of economic or financial resources to which an applicant is entitled to, or which applicant requires, including household necessities, medical and mortgage expenses, school fees, rent or other similar expenses. To what extent would a spouse claim economic neglect as a form of domestic violence?

Is it when a man, for example, fails to meet the economic needs of a woman and if so, what qualifies these needs. In addition, what would determine a need from a want or a luxury, knowing that this may vary from one family status to another? Does it mean that one partner is obligated to pay mortgage expenses on behalf of another?

The other aspect that this bill seeks to define under the ambit of domestic violence is psychological abuse. While it is understandable that there is what constitutes psychological torture, it is, however, contestable the extent to which insults may apply in this situation. Suffice is to say that strong arguments and exchanges are part and parcel of relationships.

Another contentious issue is the way a domestic relationship is defined. The bill states that a person shall be deemed to be in a domestic relationship, if the person is married to the other, has been previously married to, is living in the same household with, has been in a marriage, dissolved or declared null.

This, in my opinion, is totally unacceptable since it forces persons who may cohabit for a few months to lay grounds for proof of domestic relationship as to constitute some form of marriage. It also consequently drags people who were once in a marriage to cling on unresolved issues.

The bill further provides for restraint orders from courts that a child can get against a parent. This is totally un-African. It is important to note that court procedures cannot be relied upon to solve every problem.

That some of these issues can be left to institutions in the community such as the church or professional counselling to deal with them. This bill, therefore, needs to be seriously re-thought before any aspect of it is made into law.

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