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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Index of articles surrounding the debate of the Domestic Violence Bill

  • Update on Domestic Violence Bill
    Veritas, Bill Watch 49/2006
    October 09, 2006

    View the index of articles on the debate around the Domestic Violence Bill
    Read the Second update on the Domestic Violence Bill

    The Domestic Violence Bill had its second reading in the House of Assembly last week and is now at Committee Stage – during which the whole House sits as a committee and the Bill is debated clause by clause. It is during Committee Stage that amendments can be moved, debated and put to the vote. The Minister of Justice has given notice of substantial amendments to the Bill. He will put these amendments to the vote during Committee Stage. MPs are also entitled to propose their own amendments to the Bill or to propose changes to the Minister’s amendments.

    The Minister’s proposed amendments are as follows. We have included the reasons for the amendments given by the Minister in his speech on Thursday 5th October winding up the Second Reading debate on the Bill.

    Clause 3
    Meaning of domestic violence and its scope

    Subclause (1) (k) where the Bill includes the unreasonable disposal of household effects or other property in which the complainant has an interest – the Minister has proposed the deletion of “household effects or other”.

    Minister’s reasons for proposed amendment: The Minister was responding to a point earlier raised by Mr Biti. Mr Biti had suggested that the Bill “almost limits the property to household effects when men are selling immovable properties behind their wives’ backs”; he called for the definition to be worded more clearly, so that it will also prohibit husbands from punishing wives by selling immovable property.

    Comment: It is not clear that the Minister’s amendment meets completely the concern raised by Mr Biti.

    Subclause (2) (c) (iii) where the definition of emotional, verbal and psychological abuse includes “the repeated exhibition of obsessive possessiveness or jealousy” he has proposed deleting the word “or jealousy”.

    Minister’s reasons for proposed amendment: The Minister was responding to Mr Kadzima’s point that a man married to a beautiful women should have the right to be jealous and monitor the movements of his wife.

    Comment: Repeated exhibition of obsessive jealousy [known in psychiatry as the “Othello syndrome] is a strong predictor of violence and even murder. Repeatedly following a spouse into a workplace and making jealous scenes is degrading and humiliating conduct.

    Clause 14
    Anti-domestic violence counsellors

    To the category of people who can be appointed as anti-domestic counsellors the Minister has proposed:

    Subclause (1)(a) after “social welfare officers” the addition of “or any officer involved in development work”, and

    New subclause 1(c) “members of the traditional leadership”

    Ministers reasons for proposed amendments: the majority of our population reside in rural areas, where the traditional leadership already provides counselling.

    Comment: It is not clear what is meant by “development officers” or what their qualifications are to be appointed as counselors. In the case of “traditional leadership” the Minister is referring to chiefs, headmen and village heads.

    Clause 15
    Anti-Domestic Violence Committee

    The Minister has proposed deleting this clause in its entirety and substituting four new clauses

    New clauses
    Establishment and constitution of Anti-Domestic Violence Board,
    Functions and Powers of the Board, Funds, and Secretariat
    The composition and functions of the Board will be the same as that of the Bill’s proposed Anti Violence Committee with the addition of a representative of the Ministries of Education.

    Minister’s reasons for proposed amendment: The Minister was responding to a suggestion from the chair of the joint Portfolio Committees for Justice and Gender and agreed that the Committee should be elevated to a Board. He added that the inclusion of a representative from Ministries of Education would ensure the teaching of correct values to schoolchildren.

    Comment: The gender composition of this Board is not mentioned. Nor is it in the Bill when referring to the Anti- Domestic Violence committee. The proposed elevation of the Committee to a Board [with its own funds and secretariat] will presumably be a more costly exercise and take longer to set up.

    Addition of New Clause
    Special jurisdiction of community courts to come after the clause on Offences

    “(1) Community courts shall have jurisdiction to deal with cases involving the following acts of domestic violence

    (a) emotional, verbal and psychological abuse referred to in section 3(1)(c) and defined in section 3 (2)(c)(i), (ii),(iii) and (v); or

    (b) economic abuse referred to in section 3 (1)(d) and defined in section 3(2)(d).

    (2) To the extent that it has jurisdiction to do so, a community court may issue a protection order in terms of this Act”.

    Note: The two categories of domestic violence mentioned above do not carry criminal penalties but can result in protection orders and referral to counselling.

    Minister’s reasons for proposed amendment: This was in response to numerous contributions to the debate from chiefs suggesting that they were already dealing with domestic violence disputes and that there were many traditional cultural issues involved which they were competent to deal with.

    Comment: The presiding officers of community courts with few if any exceptions are male. A bias towards what is considered traditional and cultural may not favour women complainants.

    At this stage the only way to affect the Bill and the proposed amendments is to make representations to the Minister or to individual MP’s.

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