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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
Bill Watch 52/2006
October 25, 2006
the index of articles on the debate around the Domestic Violence
Read the First
update on the Domestic Violence Bill
Violence Bill is now at the Committee Stage in the House of Assembly.
The Committee Stage commenced on Tuesday 17th October for one day
and it will continue on Tuesday 31st October.
During the Committee
Stage, the Bill is put to the House clause by clause. This stage
is an opportunity for debate. The sponsoring Minister can be questioned
and amendments considered from the Minister, the relevant Portfolio
Committee or individual MPs. If prior notice of amendments has been
given they will be on the printed order paper. New amendments arising
from the debate, but not on the order paper, can be introduced with
the permission of the chairperson. All amendments have to be within
the main principles and objectives of the Bill as approved in the
On the Order
Paper for 17th October were amendments previously notified by the
Minister of Justice. No amendments had been previously notified
by private members. Read the First
update on the Domestic Violence Bill
1: Only one women MP contributed to Tuesday’s work in the
House of Assembly on the Domestic Violence Bill. Is this because
our other women MPs are all happy with the Bill and the amendments
the men MPs are proposing? Some clauses were agreed to without
amendment, some were agreed to with the amendments proposed by the
Minister, and others were deferred for further consideration on
2: Even clauses that have already been agreed to can be
revisited during the continuing Committee stage.
The short title and specifying that the President will fix a date
of commencement by statutory instrument.
Clause agreed to without amendment.
The interpretation of terms contained in the Bill (other than the
definition of domestic violence, which is in clause 3).
- Mr Gonese
suggested the insertion of a definition of "abduction"
into Clause 2 to ensure that certain acceptable traditional practices
would not constitute domestic violence. He suggested that the
word “abduction” used in clause 3 (1)(l) may be misinterpreted
without a definition. Clause 3(1)(l) states that domestic violence
includes – “abuse derived from any cultural or customary
rites or practices that discriminate or degrade women, 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,
and other such practices”.
The Minister undertook to consider the point. He said
that the intention is to criminalise "forced abduction":
have no intention of defining domestic violence like kutiza
mukumbo during the night. That clearly is an acceptable
customary way of starting a marriage and is always by consent."
deferred for further consideration.
Comment: Either a definition in clause 2 or clarification
of what is meant in clause 3 as suggested by Mr Coltart would seem
necessary. Women wanted the word “abduction” included
and should carefully monitor any changes made (whether to clause
2 or clause 3) to ensure that new wording or added definitions are
Definition of “domestic violence”.
There was some
discussion of the Minister's proposed amendments to delete “or
jealousy” and “household effects or other”. See
The debate was
- There was
considerable opposition to including “unreasonable denial
of conjugal rights” in the Bill. The debate had its lighter
moments with male MPs concerned about how an appropriate performance
would be determined. The Minister pointed out that “unreasonable
denial of conjugal rights” comes in the part of the Bill
that deals with emotional and psychological abuse and is not a
criminal offence but as one of the common precursors of violence
it may require interventions such as counselling and therefore
should not be removed from the Bill.
- Mr Coltart
suggested putting the preventative provisions of the Bill, i.e.
emotional, verbal and psychological and economic abuse, into another
section for purposes of clarity.
The Minister agreed and invited Mr Coltart to draft and table
such an amendment.
deferred for further consideration.
As it stands the Bill puts all acts of domestic violence in one
clause – those which are criminal offences and that those
that are not. This is creating an assumption that same procedures,
remedies and penalties apply to all categories of domestic violence.
Many of the objections to the Bill, both in Parliament and in the
press, have arisen from this misunderstanding. Separating the offences
and the preventive provisions of the Bill should clarify and promote
acceptance of the Bill. This is a proposal for a significant amendment
and should be monitored by the women’s lobby.
4 and 5
The whole of Part II of the Bill, making provision for Duties of
Police and Powers of Arrest in Respect of Domestic Violence.
Clauses agreed to without amendment.
6 to 13
The whole of Part III, dealing with protection orders.
Clauses agreed to without amendment.
Referring to anti-domestic violence counsellors.
The effect of
the amendments was to add the following two categories to the persons
qualified to be appointed as anti-domestic violence counsellors
(appointments to be made by the Minister) –
of the traditional leadership”
officer involved in community work".
Note: the Minister
has proposed in his amendments on the order paper “any officer
involved in development work" but this was changed after
an intervention from MP Mrs Stevenson.
Clause agreed to with amendments.
In the original Bill this was the clause establishing the Anti-Domestic
Violence Committee. But the Minister had given notice of an amendment
to upgrade the Committee to a Board by deleting this clause and
replacing it with four new clauses:
Establishment and constitution of Anti-Domestic Violence Board;
Functions and powers of Board;
Funds of Board;
Secretariat of Board.
If this amendment
is agreed to, Parliament is likely to produce a revised copy of
the Bill with the clauses renumbered for the use of MPs.
There was debate
on the composition of the proposed new Anti-Domestic Violence Board.
- It was suggested
(Coltart and Gonese) that:
there should be fewer government representatives and more from
relevant NGOs and from the church/religious sector.
The Minister would not agree to cut the number of government
representative, but agreed to two extra NGO representatives,
and, recognising the difficulty of getting agreement form the
church/religious sector on a single nomination – it might
take “the remainder of the millennium” – said
he would amend the clause to allow the Minister to select
a representative of that sector’s interests.
- In the proposed
new clause on Functions and powers of Board, Ms Stevenson suggested
the setting up of regional and provincial committees so that the
work on domestic violence would be more decentralised.
This suggestion was not debated, because at this point
confusion arose, with some members following the original clause
numbering and others using the numbers in the Minister’s
There will have
to be some corrections (there are discrepancies between the Hansard
report and Votes & Proceedings) and those clauses which were
not fully debated will have to revisited.
Clause 15 and the three other proposed new
clauses to be inserted here, deferred for further consideration.
Comment : There
was still no amendment proposed to ensure that the Board comprises
a majority of women - see
first update. The relevant NGO’s may like to lobby for
still more representation (the Minister agreed to three and the
government has at least seven). The church/religious sector may
like to lobby for the right to nominate their own representative
– failure to agree on a nominee within a set time limit should
be the only situation where a Minister decides on a representative
of an interest group. Mrs Stevenson’s suggestion of decentralization
still needs to be introduced as an amendment.
This is the
clause which provides for penalties for acts of domestic violence
which are criminal offences (it specifically excludes emotional,
verbal and psychological abuse and economic abuse). It will require
amendment if effect is to be given to Mr Coltart's suggestion about
clarifying the differences between criminal and non-criminal acts
of domestic violence.
Clause deferred for further consideration.
clause to be inserted after clause 16, and to be titled
Special jurisdiction of community courts.
Amendment proposed by Minister - see
There was no
debate on this clause recorded – some members were still seeking
clarification on numbering.
Clause recorded as agreed to without amendment
in Hansard, but recorded as deferred in Votes and Proceeding.
Minister's power to make regulations.
there was some confusion and Hansard did not record any debate.
Votes and Proceedings recorded this clause as agreed to, but Hansard
did not, nor did it record it as deferred.
this clause should be revisited and an amendment proposed as at
the moment this clause does not require the Minister to consult
before making regulations, not even to consult the proposed Board.
Regulations will be playing a major role in the implementation of
the Act. They will, for example, prescribe the forms of applications
for protection orders and the forms of warrants and protection orders.
It is vital that all those documents be simple and easy to understand.
One means of achieving this would be to amend the clause to make
input from stakeholders/interested parties part of the regulation-making
process, by obliging the Minister, before making regulations,
to consult and/or to publish draft regulations and give stakeholders/
interested parties and members of the general public an opportunity
to make representations.
to the Bill
proposed by Minister (there was no such schedule in the original
is linked to the Minister’s proposal to upgrade the Anti-Domestic
Violence Committee to a Board, and is referred to in subclause (5)
of the new clause 15 proposed by the Minister. The Schedule contains
comprehensive provisions applicable to the Board - see
first update. The Minister dismissed as "unnecessarily
elaborate" MP Mr Coltart's suggestion that anyone with a previous
conviction for domestic violence, no matter how light the sentence,
should be disqualified for appointment to the Board. Schedule agreed
to without amendment.
might like to pursue this point and reopen this debate. There is
a risk that if members of the Board have an previous conviction
they may not be rigorous in ensuring the act is properly implemented.
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