The Domestic Violence Bill, which seeks to provide legal protection for marital spouses and children from violence and abuses, went through the second reading in Parliament on Thursday.
The First Deputy Speaker Mr Freddie Blay, who sat in the chair, ruled that the motion was moved after much debate on whether it should be deferred for the next day since it was past 1300 hours and Parliament had to close by 1400 hours.
Members were divided on the movement of the motion, arguing that due to the importance of the bill, ample time was needed to study the Report of the joint Committee on Gender and Children and Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, on the Bill, distributed earlier in the day.
The House was unanimous on its support for the bill after Mr Kwame Osei-Prempeh, Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice had moved the motion, stating that domestic violence had become a social canker and the bill was to provide victims with a broader set of remedies. He observed that the bill never saw the light of the day in earlier attempts to make it materialize for frequent deferments against the rather increasing reports incest, rape and other forms of domestic abuses.
Mr Osei-Prempeh said the bill considers both offenders and victims and provision was also made for settlement and further provide a check for the numerous attacks on women, children and the voiceless vulnerable bring perpetrators to book and victims back their dignity. Reading the Report of the Joint Committee, Mrs. Esther Obeng Dapaah, Chairperson of the Committee said "violence within domestic settings was exemplified in the beating of spouses, sexual and other forms of house-helps and children, the aged, sick and physically challenged". A recent national study on violence revealed that one in three women interviewed had been beaten, slapped or physically punished by a current or most recent partner.
"There are also cases of sexual and other forms of harassment in the office settings. Domestic violence had in some instances resulted in the death of spouses and children," Mrs Obeng Dapaah said. She said, the introduction of the bill was informed by the need to provide victims of domestic violence with a broader set of remedies including, particularly protection orders, which will promote human dignity and ensure prompt, cost effective and less traumatic means of redress.
Members of the House, particularly from the Minority side indicated the readiness for Members to pass the bill, saying it was unfortunate that the bill had been perceived as fronting for women against men. Mr Kojo Armah, CPP-Evalue Gwira said it is about inhuman treatment of one person against another, adding that both men and women can be victims of domestic violence.
Alhaji Abubakar Sumanu, NDC-Tamale North said the bill would prove to the world that Ghana had come of age, while Mr Haruma Iddrisu, NDC-Tamale South commended Cabinet on the removal of the provision of marital rape from the bill, saying that; "You cannot restrict the enjoyment of conjugal rights.
Mr Iddrisu commended the initiators of the bill and suggested that further attempts should be made to identify factors leading to domestic violence, adding that the passage of the bill would not be enough in checking abuse, if the judicial process is going to be slow. He said the Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs should look for more funds under the proposed fund in the bill to educate and conscientize Ghanaians on the implementation of the bill.
Mr Stephen Balado Manu, NPP-Ahafo Ano South criticised in harsh terms people who were wrongly claiming ownership of the bill, to the extent of forging signatures of faceless people in the constituencies urging Members of Parliament to hasten work on the bill.
He said the bill belongs to Parliament and no impression should be created that Parliament was against the passage of the bill. Using the local Akan expressing, "Alomo Gyata" Mr Balado Manu said some women had become tigresses and lionesses, inflicting violence on men at home and urged them to see the Minister for Information and National Orientation, Mr. Kwamina Bartels for a new orientation. Mr Balado Manu stated further that it was wrong for some people to wear red bands and parade the public gallery of Parliament on the day of the second reading of the bill to create the impression that Parliament was against the bill.
Soon after this statement, which was supported by Mr. Lee Ocran, NDC-Jomoro some group of people mostly women, including Nana Oye Lithur, a human rights advocate seating in the gallery and wearing red bands and mourning cloths walked of the Chamber.
Nana Lithur later told journalists that they walked to expressed their protest at the way some Members of Parliament were handling the debate.