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19.06.2004 General News

Men march for the passage of Domestic Violence Bill

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Accra, June 19, GNA- Hundreds of men on Saturday defied the early morning drizzling and marched onto major streets in Accra to demonstrate in favour of the Domestic Violence Bill (DVB).

The men carried placards some of which read, "Men are on board? "The DVB is Gender Friendly," "Rape within marriage, how does it feel like? "Men Support the DVB" and "The BDV is for peace and we men are in favour" from the Kwame Nkrumah Circle to the Accra Sports Stadium. Some of them distributed brochures on the Bill while others explained it to the public.

The March, organised by the National Coalition On Domestic Violence was to pressurise for the passage of the bill by Parliament. Mr Clement Osabutey, a youth leader at Faith Independent Baptist Church stated that women have physically suffered horrors at the hands of men, brutalised, forced into prostitution, raped and more often than not killed.

Others have also been maimed, sexually assaulted and beaten, leading to blindness, loss of limbs and hearing, and unwanted pregnancies.

Mr Osabutey said the effects of brutalities and inhuman treatment of women have shattered their sense of security and the ability to trust men which has brought in its wake, fright, inability to concentrate for a long time, loss of consciousness, jittery and withdrawal syndromes. Dr James Clayman Dakyi explained that women have also experienced overwhelming terror, nightmares, loss of memory and normal ways of relating to people, flashbacks and in extreme cases, madness.

He disclosed that contrary to common perception, most violent men are not mentally ill instead many are merely exerting what they see as their natural right to dominate women.

He explained that perpetrators of domestic violence instead of cultivating a relationship of equality based on mutual respect and support, they thrive on a relationship based on power and control, the use of coercion, threats, intimidation and emotional abuse.

Dr Dakyi expressed regret that bureaucratic mechanisms of law enforcement before getting redress by victims of domestic violence, had turned to serve as hindrances to victims, "what the victims need is prompt, cost-effective and less traumatic means for redress", he added The only hope for women now is for the promulgation of the "Domestic Violence Bill" which seeks to provide a comprehensive set of provisions to specifically govern and protect the rights of the vulnerable in homes through the issuance of civil protection orders.

Ms Angela Dwamena-Aboagye of the Ark Foundation a non-governmental gender advocate group said the Criminal Code is not adequate enough to check the incidence.

''It contains an archaic English law which even justified the use of force in marriage."

She said the Bill therefore seeks to ensure equity in marriage life, protect either spouse from abuses, especially women and provide shelter for victims of domestic violence at public premises.

Ms Dwamena-Aboagye also allayed fears in certain quarters that the passage of the Bill would be a recipe for the break-up of marriages, stressing that the law would not be a license for anybody to send her spouse to court for trivial domestic incidents. It would rather ensure the safety of both sexes, she said.

The draft Bill, also seeks to regulate the family, community and society's attitude and general respect for women and children, she added.

It also includes sections on the filing of complaints in respect of domestic violence, petition for civil protection, grant of civil protection orders and duration of protection orders, among other things. It also seeks that amicable settlement be pursued and exhausted by all parties prior to redress in a court of law.

That a Police Officer may without warrant, arrest any respondent at the scene of an incident of domestic violence, whom he or she reasonably suspects of having committed an offence containing an element of violence against a complainant.

The Bill also seeks to provide that a domestic violence action shall not be brought more than two years from the date the right to maintain the action accrued.

This is to ensure prompt filling of complaints by complainants and restricts delays on the part of complainants.