The Inquirer (Monrovia)

Liberia: Domestic Violence Law Debate Begins

The Law Reform Commission in partnership with the Ministries of Justice and Gender and Development have concluded a one-day national stakeholders review meeting on the draft Domestic Law which seeks to amend provisions in both the Civil and Criminal Procedure Laws of Liberia.

The criminal law aspect of the draft Domestic Law seeks to make amendments to Chapter 16 of the penal law, Offences Against The Family; Sub-chapter A. Domestic Law while the Civil Law aspect supports an amendment to section 1 Chapter 7, Provisional Remedies, Civil Procedure Law, Title 1, Liberian Code of Law Reversed which adds subchapter H.

According to the Vice Chairperson of the Law Reform, Deweh Gray, in 16.21 Titled Offences, domestic violence shall constitute an act or threats to commit acts of physical or sexual violence, patterns of acts causing emotional, verbal or psychological abuse, acts or threats to commit acts constituting economic abuse, preventing the person from engaging in any legitimate profession, occupation, business or activity, and depriving the person of the right to the use and enjoyment of conjugal property or properties owned in common, harassment, among others.

While in her explanation on her presentation on, the Deputy Minister of Justice for Codification, Victoria Lang lectured how the draft law explains the procedures of how the court proceeds in handling cases of domestic violence.

Subchapter H which considers including 'Orders relating to domestic violence', Cllr. Lang discussed the 24 provisions therein beginning from provisional remedies to arrest and seizure of weapons, which borders on applying for protective orders, a process that can be done in any court in spite of the nature of the matter and noted that such orders by a child can be filed by a legal representative.

Earlier, the Resident Representative of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Ratidzai Ndhlovu told the gathering that gender equality which is one of the eight Millennium Development Goals is key to achieving the rest of the goals and that can only be achieved when women and girls are protected against any forms of violence.

Madam Ndhlovu said discrimination against women and girls including gender-based violence, economic discrimination, reproductive health inequities and harmful traditional practices remains the most pervasive and persistent form of inequality.

She emphasized how extremely important it is to repeal laws that discriminate against women and girls and enact laws that promote equal opportunity and foster personal healthy relationships based on mutual trust and respect.

"We must break down the barriers of stereotypes and prejudices so that both sexes are able to equally contribute to and benefit from economic, social, cultural and political developments within society," the UNFPA boss said. She also injected the need to break the silence of the growing problem of boys who are being sexually abused especially by older men.

Representing the Embassy of Sweden in Liberia, the head of Development Cooperation, Gisela Strand said the proposed law should stimulate the momentum for creating zero tolerance towards violence.

She said there is still a long way remaining in terms of changing the underlying structures and norms that hindered all individuals in applying zero tolerance towards all forms of gender based violence. And it is only when all women, men, boys and girls affected by violence in their homes feel safe and empowered enough to speak out and report on domestic violence will the law fulfill its intended objective.

The one-day review meeting is part of activities marking the campaign that propels the 16 Days of Activism and brought together cross section of legal practitioners, county attorneys, teachers, magistrates, traditional leaders and leaders of women groups.

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