Malawi: New bill to curb domestic violence

Government has said it has proposed a new bill to curb domestic violence perpetrated to women and children by, among other things, suggests opening households to public scrutiny in a bid to prevent cases of domestic violence which have been on the rise in recent weeks as evidenced by media reports. Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Henry Phoya told a news conference on Friday that his ministry and the Ministry of Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services, moved by the number of incidences of violence against women and children, decided to take up the issue to combat this menace in societies.

“It is for this reason that government will, subject to cabinet approval, soon propose to Parliament a Bill to curb domestic violence. The Bill, if passed into law by Parliament, is intended to open households to public scrutiny for purposes only of preventing domestic violence and holding offenders accountable to the law for their violent acts or omissions,” said Phoya.

He said the proposed new bill comes in because traditionally domestic disputes are regarded as private matters even if they result in physical or sexual abuse, hence there has been very little done by civil law on such cases.

“The bill will seek to change the perception which considers as culturally inappropriate for an infringed spouse to disclose family problems to outsiders as this embarrasses the victim, her family and community. It will empower the victims to seek the protection of government and the courts in times of either physical or sexual abuse,” said Phoya.

Phoya said the new law shall complement the existing criminal laws contained in the Penal Code such as Section 235 which deals, among other things, with acts intended to cause grievous harm.

“So the man who chopped off the arms of the woman from Dowa could be liable under this section. There is no doubt in my mind that the act amounted to causing grievous harm. The punishment for this offence is life imprisonment. As soon as he is arrested, the case will be referred to the Director for Public Prosecution for action,” said Phoya.

Gender, Child Welfare and Community Services Minister Joyce Banda expressed sadness that the man who hacked his ex-wife’s arms is still at large.
“There could be nothing more pleasing to a victimised woman or girl than to see the culprit behind the bars,” said Banda.

Banda said her ministry has embarked on a sensitisation campaign to let the communities be aware of the major causes and effects of violence against women and children.

“In addition, my ministry has also embarked on a project to establish three rehabilitation centres, one in each region to operate as drop-in centres fro victimized women and children. These centres will offer multi-pronged trauma related treatment to victims of various forms of abuse,” said Banda
Banda said the major services to be offered in these centres will include a 24-hour toll-free hotline phone for victims to report incidences of abuse; counselling, psycho-social care and support to the victimised women and children; life skills and income generation training and rehabilitation as well as resettlement through economic empowerment.

Banda also said her ministry has set aside a special K22 million fund to be given to victims after rehabilitation either in form of loans or grants depending on the nature and magnitude of harm caused to them.

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