Kpando, (V/R), April 24, GNA- The Domestic Violence Bill would promote harmonious marriages, facilitate respect and protect partners, Mrs Shiela Minkah-Premo, Executive Council Member of the Leadership and Advocacy for Women in Africa (LAWA), an NGO has said. She gave this assurance at a two-day seminar on Domestic Violence for Queenmothers and women's groups in the Kpando District at Kpando. The seminar, initiated by Miss Akua Dansua, Member of Parliament (MP), for North-Dayi explained the import of the Bill to the women and the general situation and what was required to stem the phenomenon. Mrs Minkah-Premo said the bill sought to protect both parties to marriages and such relationships and should therefore, not be misconstrued as directed against men.
She explained that the Civil Protection Orders in the bill attested to the fact that the bill was not meant to be punitive but to be protective of marriages and partners and that it is only in extreme circumstances that deterrent fines and custodial sentences would be imposed on offenders.
Mrs Minkah-Premo explained that the perceived pro-women nature of the bill has arisen because women have been the most victims of domestic violence in the country.
She explained that the bill was in fulfilment of Ghana's international obligations as a signatory to several international conventions and declarations including the declaration on the elimination of violence against women and the Beijing declaration among others.
It was also to address the inadequacies in Criminal Procedure Code on domestic violence, while researches have shown the need for specific laws on domestic violence.
Mrs Minkah-Premo said men who do not make domestic violence a feature of their marriages and relationships need not fear the bill. She explained that partners whose domestic misconduct result in inflicting more serious harm to their partners such as threat of death and death would be tried and punished if found guilty. Mrs Barbara Ayesu, Co-ordinator of LAWA said reasons usually assigned to justify domestic violence against women were myths which women in particular and society in general should get rid of from their mentality.
She identified some of them as the view that "when women say no they mean yes", that violence against women tended to renew love towards the victim, that inhumane widowhood rites were necessary to protect the widow against being haunted by the late husband and that a woman loses her rights once she gets into marriage.
Mrs Ayesu said it is also untenable to blame domestic violence on drunkenness, that women invite such violence onto themselves. She said it is unfair to conclude that some women complain about their partners' misbehaviour in order to draw sympathy.
Mrs Hilary Gbedemah, Senior Legal Advisor of Women in Law and Development in Africa, (WILDAF) an NGO, said without the bill the only option left would be for marriages to break-up or the victim be forced to stay put and endure the trauma with its physical, psychological, economic and social dehumanising effects.
Mrs Gbedemah, who is also a member of LAWA, cautioned that it is important to see and deal with the early signs of domestic violence. She said more often when such acts of violence occur the perpetrators were most likely to issue threats or show some inclinations towards remorse in attempts to soften the victim.
Mrs Gbedemah said gestures towards placating the victim through various forms of love overtures might not be genuine and could lead to greater violence and even death in subsequent violent encounters if the problem was not addressed resolutely.
She said rather than being a source of comfort and envy, a woman whose husband or partner provides her with everything and prevents her from earning her own income, was being enslaved and denied her dignity and right to work and be self-dependent.
Mrs Gbedemah said victims of domestic violence should be encouraged to bring out their feelings instead.
The general consensus by the participants was that victims are compelled to endure domestic violence for several reasons including the need to protect the interests of their children, lack of economic empowerment, pressures from parents to persevere in such circumstances. There is also the need to protect their husbands and partners and the consequences of being disbelieved when they complain. The participants said some of the things which necessitate domestic violence included total dependence of women on their husbands and partners, laziness on the part of some women, lack of adequate preparation before marriage, the nagging attitude of some women.
Miss Dansua urged the Queen-mothers to be crusaders against domestic violence in their respective communities and impart the knowledge obtained at the seminar to other women and women's groups. Mr Pius Adanuti, Kpando District Chief Executive said the country stood to gain a lot if women were assisted to overcome obstacles that hindered the development of their potentials.
He observed that more often women tended to encourage some of the biases against themselves and hoped that initiatives would be forthcoming from women leaders to correct the anomaly. Mr Adanuti advised women to encourage men to be their partners in projects and actions aimed at uplifting the status of women in the country.