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This article participates on the following special index pages:
Index of articles surrounding the debate of the Domestic Violence Bill
Violence Bill stirs fiery debate
The Zimbabwe Independent
decided it was rather niggling to enforce a law penalising a stranger
for winking at a woman by classifying batting an eyelid as a form
of sexual harassment, Zanzibari women appeared overly protected.
The pesky law
in religious communities raised controversy as to defining how the
flutter of an eyelid should constitute an offence.
found it embarrassing to take strangers to the community court and
prefer charges that he had intentionally twitched his eyelid at
them. And complainants had to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that
it was not just an involuntary twitch but that the stranger rippled
his eyelid intentionally for more than three seconds.
definitions seem to have crept into Zimbabwe’s new Domestic
Violence Bill currently under discussion in parliament.
Women that paraded
the streets a fortnight ago to protest Mabvuku-Tafara legislator,
Timothy Mubawu’s utterances during debate on the Bill might have
clapped their hands too early before they had all their ducks in
The Bill has
an ominous catch. A person that makes "any false statement in any
application or affidavit made in terms of this Act, knowing such
statement to be false or not believing it to be true, shall be guilty
of an offence and liable to a fine or to imprisonment for a period
not exceeding five years or to both such fine and such imprisonment".
The MP raised
the protesters’ wrath with his biblical references to the highly
controversial Bill that caught cultural revivalists, orthodox Christians
and modernists alike in a flat spin.
stand alone like Daniel in the lion’s den for saying that the Bill
against domestic violence was diabolic.
"I stand here
representing God, the Almighty. Women are not equal to men," Mubawu
told fellow legislators during debate.
"It is a dangerous
Bill and let it be known in Zimbabwe that the right, privilege and
status of men are gone. I stand here alone and say this Bill should
not be passed in this House. It is diabolic."
say the Bill could trigger matrimonial upheavals on a scale never
has for long been conceived primarily as a private family affair
to be resolved silently within the walls of the home.
rights lobbyists seem to have triumphed in turning the age-old marital
harmony on its head, according to critics.
West MP Zacharia Ziyambi: "There are certain cultural values that
shape every family which are likely to be at stake with this legislation
and many families are going to break up."
In terms of
the Bill, domestic violence means "any unlawful act, omission or
behaviour that results in death or the direct infliction of physical,
sexual or mental injury to any complainant by a respondent".
such acts as physical abuse, sexual, emotional, verbal and psychological
abuse, economic, intimidation, harassment and stalking.
the legislation will penalise perpetrators for abuse derived from
any cultural or customary rites or practices that discriminate or
a raft of transgressions such as forced virginity testing, female
genital mutilation, pledging of women or girls for the purposes
of appeasing spirits, abduction, child marriage, forced marriage,
forced wife inheritance, sexual intercourse between fathers-in-law
and newly married daughters-in-law.
privacy of the home and the centrality attributed to intimate relations
are valued, privacy and intimacy often provide the opportunity for
violence and the justification for non-interference.
But Mubawu was
not standing alone when he made the assertions that prompted women
into pillorying him.
Chimombe, a representative of the chiefs in Manicaland, pointed
out that the proposed Act was vague in relation to virginity tests.
chief, a cultural revivalist, argued in defence of virginity tests,
saying the law was seeking to take the practice out of context,
disregarding its advantages.
is not conducted by just anyone," he argued.
"There are selected
elderly women in the villages who are responsible for that," he
added, citing an incident when the cultural norm helped expose cases
of child abuse, resulting in the culprits being brought to heel.
It could take
a lot to define some sections of the well-intentioned Bill such
as "emotional, verbal and psychological abuse" which the Bill says
mean a pattern of degrading or humiliating conduct towards a complainant.
however, have hailed the Bill as long overdue.
crying for such a Bill and were getting disillusioned by the delays.
We now have hope that government is showing concern about domestic
violence," Angela Makamure of the Federation
of Media Women of Zimbabwe, said.
in the Bill is rosy though. For instance the Bill is vague on sheltering
for the victim of domestic violence," she added.
"It might not
appeal to economically challenged women whose husbands are the sole
breadwinners because once convicted under the Act, the breadwinner
could spend some time in jail, creating hardships for the family,"
"A husband coming
from prison might be hardened by the punishment to the extent that
he no longer loves his spouse. Either of the spouses could easily
be ostracised by the relatives and the Bill is silent on the safety
nets in such instances."
She also said
the Bill should have been taken on a roadshow to the rural areas
before it was tabled to allow rural women to input into it.
of Women’s Action
Group (WAG), Edna Masiyiwa, said this had been done.
She said it
had taken too long for the Bill to come to parliament.
"We have worked
for this type of Bill for the past six years since 2000. It is something
that we have been wanting and we are glad it has finally come about.
I hope it will be passed soon."
in collaboration with Msasa
Project, WAG had been running workshops in rural areas such
as Guruve and Marondera to sensitise women about domestic violence.
"We will continue
pushing for as many rural women as possible to know how the Bill
protects them," she said.
find it asocial to charge offenders for "the repeated exhibition
of obsessive possessiveness or jealousy", just as the Zanzibari
women felt they were overly protected from legitimate courtship.
Seeing the vague
definition, Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, on Tuesday, proposed
to amend contentious sections that deal with jealousy, and unreasonable
denial of conjugal rights.
"I am impressed
by the debate over the Bill and praying that it sails through parliament,"
a University of Zimbabwe media student, Cleopatra Ndlovu, said.
She said it
was evident from the divisions between men and women parliamentarians
over the Bill that some men had unfounded fears that the Bill was
meant to penalise men only by disempowering them.
"The Bill penalises
both and will foster harmony in the families."
that had invested all their faith in a harmless connivance allowing
sexual intercourse between fathers-in-law and newly married daughters-in-law,
and other such practices to guarantee continuation of a generation,
the Bill could be diabolic.
The Bill seeks
to punish spouses for unreasonable deprivation of economic or financial
resources to which a complainant is entitled under the law or which
the complainant requires out of necessity, including household necessities,
medical expenses, school fees, mortgage bonds and rent payments,
or similar expenses.
abuse, spouses "shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a fine
not exceeding level fourteen or to imprisonment for a period not
exceeding ten years or to both such fine and such imprisonment".
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