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This article participates on the following special index pages:
Index of articles surrounding the debate of the Domestic Violence Bill
and possessiveness in the Domestic Violence Bill
The Zimbabwe Independent
UNDER the section
on "emotional, verbal and psychological abuse" in the Domestic
Violence Bill, some of the offences, though not criminal, are
listed as "obsessive possessiveness" and "unreasonable denial of
This is what
I call getting into the real heart of the matter. I was reminded
of a little story I read last week. It said men or women with beautiful
spouses were most liable to suffer stress in their lives. This,
it was revealed in the survey, was because both, if they were committed
to each other, were likely to be plagued by jealousy and possessiveness.
The Bill on
domestic violence seeks to make jealousy and possessiveness about
your wife or husband an offence. It is difficult to fathom what
lay in the mind of the person contemplating such a piece of law.
Are we not stretching civilisation too far?
While you commit
an offence of being "too possessive" of your spouse, you are still
expected to fulfill his or her "conjugal rights". How does one reconcile
these two? Isn’t the law seeking to be too intrusive on issues that
ordinarily should be resolved by two consenting adults or in the
family setting with friends and relatives?
Why is it assumed
that classifying a conflict in the family as an offence will make
it any less emotional and elicit exactly the same reactions associated
with love, anger, provocation? Is it the intention of the minister
to legislate for or against love? Perhaps he saw the film on circuit
not so long ago starring Ewan McGregor: Down With Love!
Then there were
other interesting anomalies. The Bill requires that an interim protection
order issued by the court should have a warrant of arrest attached
to it regardless whether the respondent is aware of the action of
the complainant or not. Why should the respondent be denied the
legal right to presumed innocence or at least to be allowed the
chance to give his/her side of the story without being treated as
a common law criminal? The Bill ignores a natural human trait that
a claim can be motivated by malice or a complainant overreacting
in the heat of the moment. Experience shows that very few acts of
"domestic violence" are premeditated.
In an act of
exuberant vindictiveness, the Bill proposes that a respondent who
violates a protection order should be fined or jailed for a "period
not exceeding five years". What is the intention of such a shocking
sentence in a domestic issue? This is not to downplay the "offence"
committed but the Bill ignores the personal relationship between
husband and wife. Unless the two were already in the process of
a divorce, spouses never keep grudges against each other for that
long. This to me sounds more punitive than corrective.
The person so
unfortunate to be convicted of domestic violence is liable to a
fine "not exceeding level fourteen or to imprisonment not exceeding
10 years". Is this for murder or rape?
The prison term
contemplated here presumes that once a complainant reports to the
police he or she puts the matter beyond his/her further power, has
abandoned all traditional remedies pertaining to the domestic set-up
and leaves no room for reconciliation. This is patently erroneous.
A complainant can reconsider his/her decision for any number of
of friends or family;
status of respondent;
loss of job and support; and finally,
- Risk of
breaking up marriage.
The Bill risks
working against its intention by discouraging those who want to
make a complaint because they need help, not because they want to
end their marriages or unduly punish their spouses. Unless there
is something I am missing about domestic relationships.
I went through the Bill I was on the lookout for the clause that
so offended Tafara-Mabvuku MP Timothy Mubawu that he had to interpose
himself between God and parliament but I found none. He allegedly
complained bitterly that men had been stripped of their dignity
and that the Bill was offensive in the eyes of God and therefore
should be thrown out. He probably hadn’t read the whole Bill and
Was the demonstration
that followed against Mubawu’s perceived blasphemy or the alleged
inequality between men and women? To me both reasons are silly —
the first because God exacts His own revenge and the other because
nowhere does the Bill seek to legislate for inequality on the basis
of sex. So what was the point?
But if he said
what he is alleged to have said, I would still respect him for his
honesty. It is hard in these days of political correctness to find
men or women who have the courage to speak their mind.
The crowd of
women and male hangers-on who supported them against Mubawu would
do well to learn a thing or two from Voltaire’s plea to God to protect
him from his friends because it was easier for him to deal with
his enemies (honest men).
Studies in all
cultures and across social classes have demonstrated that violence
against women and the girl child, including rape and murder, is
mostly committed by relatives or men they know and trust (God help
us). They tend to keep a safe distance from strangers.
I hope those
demonstrating were not playing political games. Leave our legislators
to give this important Bill the attention it deserves.
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