Liberia: Landmark Domestic Violence Bill Undergoes Scrutiny

-- To improve the quality of lives for those being abused and to prevent further abuses

From all indications the 54th Legislature is under enormous pressure both from local civil service organizations and from the international community, especially intercontinental women groups, on the passage of the Domestic Violence Act to help victims of domestic and sexual abuse, including restraining violent offenders even if they are not a spouse, live-in partner or girl/ boyfriend.

The Domestic Violence Act was introduced in 2014 during the 53rd Legislature, but was not approved by either House and was reintroduced recently by the Chairperson of the Women Legislative Caucus in the 54th Legislature, Representative Rosana Schaack, for its passage.

The proposed bill includes but is not limited to pregnant women, who are subject to violence not only from their spouses but also from their in-laws and against being used as unpaid domestic labor.

At least 21 members of the House of Representatives of the Committee on Judiciary; Gender Equity, Child Development and Social Services and Good Governance & Government Reform respectively are expected to scrutinize the Domestic Violence Act of 2014 on Wednesday, June 26, 2019 at Hotel Buchanan in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, beginning 11:00am.

A memo, dated Monday, June 24, 2019 to members of the Joint Committee from the House's Judiciary Chairman, J. Fonati Koffa, reads: "I am pleased to inform you that there will a hearing on Wednesday, June 26, 2019 on the Domestic Violence Act of 2014, which was reintroduced by Rep. Shaack."

It added: "Relevant stakeholders and partners have been invited... The hearing is scheduled to be held at Hotel Buchanan Buchanan in Grand Bassa Count at 11:00 a.m."

Accordingly, about 20 institutional heads have been invited to serve as witnesses for the day-long public hearing to help the Joint Committee to make an informed recommendation to the Plenary of the House of Representatives.

Institutions whose heads were invited include the US Embassy, Swedish Embassy, The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), UNAIDS, European Union (EU), the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF); USAID, Kvinna till Kvinna and The National Democratic Institute (NDI).

Others are the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection; the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC); the Liberia Law Reform Commission (LRC); the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL); OXFAM; the National Traditional Council of Liberia; the Liberia National Rural Women Structure, National Civil Society Organizations Secretariat and the Women's NGO Secretariat of Liberia, among others.

According to experts, when the Domestic Violence Act is passed by both Houses and approved by the President and then printed into handbill, its enforcement is expected improve the quality of life for those being abused and to prevent further abuse.

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