New Bill targets domestic violence

Kenya: For the first time in Kenya’s history, a law has been drafted to specifically deal with cases of domestic violence.

The Protection Against Domestic Violence Bill, 2013, which is expected to be tabled in Parliament next week, addresses among others, brutality within families, forced wife inheritance and harassment by in-laws.

It seeks to protect victims of domestic violence and provide protection for spouses and any children or dependants within the family unit.

The Bill recognises sexual violence within marriage, child marriage, FGM, incest, defilement, forced wife inheritance, interference from in-laws and sexual abuse as forms of domestic violence unlike previously when they were only associated with physical violence. Domestic violence will also include economic abuse, damage to property, emotional or psychological abuse, virginity testing and “widow cleansing”.

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Nyeri Woman Representative Priscilla Nyokabi said the Bill criminalises domestic violence by both men and women, including sexual harassment and physical abuse.

“The Bill encompasses domestic violence committed by men against women and even women against their male partners. It is really bad to escape terror attacks and other violent situations only to go home and receive some slaps,” she said.

Nyokabi said if passed into law, the Bill will fill the gap that exists due to lack of any legislation addressing domestic violence.

“We have various laws that protects against violence out there in the streets or rather outside the home. But there are instances where violence occurs at home in a space of peace, trust and safety which needs to be eradicated. This Bill criminalises violence in the domestic sphere.”

Larger society

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Nyokabi pointed out that since the family is a fundamental unit in the society, violence in the family is a great predictor within the larger society. “It is true that as a country we want to outlaw violence but for us to deal with violence out there we must eradicate violence at home,” she argued.

Nyokabi was speaking during a forum that brought together women legislators and civil society groups to strategise on how to get male MPs and the public to support the Bill.

If passed into law, the Bill will allow police officers to arrest, without necessarily having a warrant, any person suspected to have assaulted or threatened to assault a family member.

domestic violence Protection Against Domestic Violence Bill, 2013