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29.08.2005 Regional News

Forum on Domestic Violence Bill held at Ho

GNA

Ho, Aug. 29, GNA - Participants at a forum on the Domestic Violence Bill held at Ho, have called for provisions to facilitate the prevention of domestic violence and the reconciliation of parties. They said the provision would require the establishment of counselling units and the services of clinical psychologists to counsel both victims and perpetrators of such violence.

The participants said the bill should also establish and strengthen state and non-state sector machinery and collaboration to educate the populace on the bill when it becomes law.

They also suggested that traditional authorities such as Chiefs and allied institutions at the community levels should be empowered by the law to adjudicate over domestic violence matters with powers of enforcement.

Additionally, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) should form the central core of resolving such disputes to promote reconciliation without sacrificing deterrence when the circumstances justified it. Some of the participants were of the view that not all acts of domestic violence were premeditated and habitual but acts committed on the spur of the moment.

Addressing the forum, Hajia Alima Mahama, Minster for Women and Children's Affairs, said the Bill was non-discriminatory and would protect men, women and children.

She said the main areas of public concern in the bill were the aspects on marital rape and sexual harassment, therefore, the need to consult the public to establish consensus on how those aspects should reflect in the proposed law.

Hajia Mahama said it would not be marital rape in a case of "I don't want it, I want it, I don't want it, I want it and finally it happens". On the contrary, she said there would be sexual rape where a husband tied his wife or pinned her down against her will in order to have sex with her or resorted to crude methods to have sex with her. She said marital rape and other forms of domestic violence were alien to the Ghanaian culture.

Hajia Mahama said the bill was therefore necessary to stop such abuse because in other countries where such laws existed such abuses did not exist.

Mrs. Hillary Gbedemah, a Legal Practitioner who spoke on how individuals and communities should respond to domestic violence, said Section 28 of the bill should be supported with protocols to direct people as to where to go with domestic violence problems. She said at the moment victims tended to rely on the good will of personalities to deal with such problems.

Mrs. Gbedemah said it was also important that the proposed law provided for mechanisms to track such violence to ensure that it was tackled in all its forms and not physical violence alone.

She explained that an offence to qualify to be domestic violence, should arise from a domestic relationship and be committed in the home.

"Other acts of violence such as defilement and rape committed outside the home have other laws that took care of them," she added. Mr. Kofi Dzamesi Volta Regional Minister, said records at the Domestic Violence and Victim Support Unit (DVVSU) of the Ghana Police Service at Ho indicated that domestic violence cases increased from 43 in 2004 to 110 by the end of July 2005.

He said the bill was necessary to eradicate the wrong notion that domestic violence especially against women was an expression of love. Mr Dzamesi said public consultations on the bill were meant to ensure that the law was well crafted in order not to create problems in implementation.

He said resort to the courts should be the last option in resolving violence and that alternative means of dealing with such problems should be considered first.

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