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New Domestic Violence Bill – A step in the right direction

Dec 19, 2013, 10:06 AM

The new Domestic Violence Bill 2013 passed by the National Assembly on Tuesday could not have come at a better time.

With the increasing reports of violence against women not only in The Gambia but across the continent, the situation is reaching a very serious level.

In moving the motion before deputies at the National Assembly, the Vice President and Minister of Women’s Affairs, Aja Dr Isatou Njie-Saidy said it is aimed at the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls among other social groupings.

Violence against women is still a common practice in many communities in the country.

These include rape and other forms of sexual violence, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, crimes in the name of protecting the family honour, and the trafficking and sexual exploitation of women.

It is disheartening that men that the women know or are in a close relationship with are the very ones mostly committing these heinous crimes against them.

African women, for example, are precious members of society; they are hardworking, committed and beautiful.

Violence against women, especially in our part of the world, is serious and most times people keep silent about it.

It is a fact that domestic violence continues to persist in many parts of Africa, and remains one of the most heinous and preventable human rights abuses.

Our argument is that this kind of violence could cause physical damage, ranging from death in extreme cases to miscarriage, broken limbs, cuts and bruises on the body of the victims.

In the same vein, women also suffer scarring and physical disability and sexual offences that expose them to the risk of HIV, sexually transmitted diseases and forced pregnancies.

The reality is that such violence can also cause lasting psychological damage to women.

The law must continue to take its course on the perpetrators of violence against women.

Such violence has often gone unreported and, until recently, there was across Africa a few supporting pieces of legislation or official practices that could be used to challenge it.

It is true to say that several states had signed and/or ratified international conventions and treaties, such as the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) or the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, but these had not been incorporated into domestic law in many countries.

The protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa was ratified by many, but the challenge is the implementation in some states.

We have always underscored the need for our states to take more serious measures to address not only violence against women, but also other aspects of women’s rights in public or private life, in peacetime and during conflicts.

What we must ensure is that violence against women becomes a thing of the past, and we fervently hope that the new Domestic Violence Bill 2013 will be the first step in ensuring this is the case.

“We are walking to wipe out domestic violence.”
Sharon Moore