Protection Against Domestic Violence Bill gains momentum
The bill has just had the second reading on the floor of the august House, but the Protection against Domestic Violence Bill, 2013 has gained momentum.
If enacted into law, the Protection Against Domestic Violence as legislation will protect families from domestic violence. It will form part of law for the protection of the family as required by various cultures and by the Constitution of Kenya in particular Article 45(1) which states: “The family is the natural and fundamental unit of society and the necessary basis of social order, and shall enjoy the recognition and protection of the State.”
The legislation will therefore recognise different forms of domestic violence such as physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence.
The Bill has received support from majority of legislatures both male and female endorsing it as the best instrument of peace as far as families are concerned.
In a gathering that brought together 48 Members of Parliament together with civil society organisation, stakeholders expressed support for Bill.
Dubbed Building Momentum and Consensus for the Protection Against Domestic Violence Bill 2013, the meeting brought together politicians, irrespective of their political affiliations all in the name of protecting the families.
According to Johnson Sakaja, chairperson of Kenya Young Parliamentarians Association (KYPA) the strength of any given county is not measured by its military, colony or populace but the steps it takes to protect those who are vulnerable.
“There is power in partnership and this bill gives people hope that there are leaders who care,” said Sakaja. He added: Violence in a domestic setting takes away dignity of the people being violated and that of the perpetrators as well.”
Sakaja, who gave the opening remarks, assured colleagues and civil society organisations represented that together with the young parliamentarians below the age of 35, they fully supported.
Giving the key note address, Dr James Nyikal, Member of Parliament for Seme, emphasized the need for parents to inculcate family roles to their children regardless of sex.
Nyikal cautioned that children are not supposed to be brought up in a manner likely to suggest that some duties belong to male and others female.
By so doing, children grow up with a negative attitude towards certain roles in the family. For instance, kitchen and laundry work are seen as female responsibilities while farming and grazing livestock are seen as male duties and this is a recipe of domestic violence.
“In urban setting where there is no shamba to be till or no animals to be looked after what would the boys be doing? Nyikal posed. He noted: “This means girls would be performing entire household chores while boys sit back and watch televisions. The girls could complain but boys will insist that their roles are invalid in the house.”
Nyikal blamed some parents for poor upbringing of their children. However, he said, time has come for parents to coach their children to play equal roles in the family regardless of gender.
He pointed out to professions like driving, security and politics which were previously dominated by men but which women had ventured into.
According to Nyikal, once the Bill becomes law it will protect and remind those who are not aware that days of barbaric ways of solving domestic differences are long gone.
Nyikal noted that family is the core pillar of the society and when it is stressed up, the whole village becomes chaotic.
“There is no society that can prosper if its people are chaotic. For instance, a distressed mother cannot lactate her baby so, the young one will not persevere hunger but to cry out loudly. This is how painful victims or survivors of any form of domestic violence feel,” Nyikal explained.
According to Nyikal, although the Bill may be construed as a female agenda, the reality is that it will protect everybody, men and women, boys and girls within the domestic set up.
Domestic violence is characterised by patterns of behaviour which involve abuse by one person against another in an intimate relationship, marriage, cohabitation or within the family. Forms of domestic violence include. To make matters worse, all women in Parliament are pushing for the Bill and men are against it.
The Protection Against Domestic Violence Bill defines domestic violence as violence against a person, or threat of violence or of imminent danger to a person by any other person with who that person is, or has been, in a domestic relationship. The bill notes that domestic violence happens primarily in the context of the family.
Nyikal says: “I was the first person to propose about this Bill in October, 2008 while serving in Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Services Department as Permanent Secretary.” He explains: “In fact the Bill was known as Family Protection Bill then changed to Matrimonial Bill and finally now, Protection Against Domestic Violence Bill. That is how I earned my name, Domestic and Sexual Assault Man Number One (DSA Man 1).”
Expressing appreciation that the Bill has found favour among men, Joyce Laboso, Deputy Speaker of National Assembly said times have evolved and things are changing.
On a lighter note, she said converted men like Agostino Neto, MP for Ndhiwa who was the master of ceremony in the meeting, deserved an applaud.
Laboso anticipated the Bill will go through all the stages required without any hitches and become a law. She prayed she would be chair at the Parliamentary session on the final stage of the Bill so that it gets through easily.
“This Bill is a good one and it is not going to harm anybody since it is men and women, sons and daughters. We cannot bring laws that will harm our own children and families. Let’s all support this Bill by being in parliament to debate and pass it,” Laboso encouraged MPs.
Addressing the MPs, Grace Mbugua of Women Empowerment Link noted that domestic violence does not care where you come from because it affects everyone.
Cecily Mbarire, MP Runyenjes Constituency and chairperson Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA), assured the public that all women are in support of the Bill that would protect their families.
She said even men who are opposed to it have not read the Bill conclusively therefore do not understand its importance.
However, Mbarire said KEWOPA has defined and summarized the whole Bill for them to understand and change their minds.
“I hope men who are opposed to this Protection Against Domestic Violence Bill are husbands, fathers, brothers and so on. So, it is a family thing not women agenda aimed at persecuting or prosecuting men at all. It is for either gender or children, so that none will take advantage of the other spouse or children,” Mbarire explained.
Kenneth Okoth, MP for Kibra Constituency reminded MPs to be attending all sessions in parliament especially when the Bill is being debated upon. He said it is only the way MPs supporting Bill shall have achieved their goal.
“Please, do not tire out until the Bill is signed by the President into law. It is not yet time to celebrate and forget attending our sessions otherwise a rude surprise might shock us at the end,” Okoth cautioned..