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General News of Tuesday, 26 March 2002

Source: GNA

Domestic Violence Bill needs support - FIDA

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The International Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) on Tuesday called on Parliament, the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs and the Ministry of Justice to support the promulgation of the domestic violence bill through Parliament.

The Federation also appealed to government to budget for and support educational programmes and the passage of the proposed private member's bill on domestic violence to protect women, adolescents and children from all forms of abuse.

Ms Gloria Ofori-Boadu, Executive Director of FIDA, said the objective of the Bill was to provide a comprehensive set of provisions, which specifically protects persons against domestic violence, through the issuance of civil protection orders.

She said FIDA in collaboration with the Gender and Children Committee of Parliament, the Attorney General's Department and other stakeholders had fine-tuned the original bill for presentation at the next sitting of Parliament as a private member's bill in spite of the constitutional constraints.

Ms Ofori-Boadu explained that the legal basis for seeking redress for violence against women and children laid mainly in the 1992 Constitution and the Criminal Code (Act 29). "There is limitation in the remedies that these laws provide. Sometimes the punitive measures used, such as arrest and jail sentences, are not favourable for promoting the unity and welfare of the existing family structures," she emphasised.

She explained that most spousal-beatings were treated as cases of assault, which could be punished by a term of imprisonment. However, what most spouses would prefer was not a jail sentence but simply for the assault and constant harassment to stop.

Ms Ofori-Boadu also noted that victims of domestic violence might not be prepared to go through long and bureaucratic mechanisms of law enforcement before getting redress.

What most victims needed was prompt, cost-effective and less traumatic means for redress, which the bill intends to offer, and a broader set of remedies, including civil protection orders that extended beyond the mere criminal sanctioning of the perpetrators of violence.

Mrs Ernestina Hagan, FIDA President, also said the proposed Bill, when passed into law, would regulate the attitude of the family, community and society and engender general respect for women and children.

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