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Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Reversing domestic violence, 2nd Edition

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Effron Lungu recently called on countries in the Great Lakes Region to establish fast track courts for 'sexual gender based violence' cases because it continues to be a pervasive and challenging issue in the Great Lakes Region. There are several points we can make here:

First, what hypocrisy! When is the Zambian government going to actually do what it preaches to others? Mr Effront Lungu will do well to first review the recent legislation which is missing the same. The recent Anti Gender Based Violence Act (2011) was a step in the right direction but the provisiom Mr Lungu talks about is not there.

Secondly, why only fast courts just for domestic violence? We have been calling for similar reforms for corruption cases, but to no avail. In a way, it is understandable. We don't want to create multiple streams of judicial processes. Hence the need for clear criteria for introducing swift processes for some cases and not others.

Thirdly, the reform of measures to tackle domestic violence must go beyond special courts. It must also be clear on use of evidence. We need a new law that allows pre-court evidence to carry substantial weight in court proceedings. This is especially so because often cases fall apart because women later withdraw their testimony due to family pressures.

Finally, while making that change, we might also explore other issues around "burden of proofs" and the possibilities of " financial penalties" paid into a "victim's fund". The 2011 Act created a Anti-Gender-Based Violence Fund  - but the money for the fund does NOT come from perpetrators, just donors and govt. It is not well thought out.

What I have never understood is why many, especially Zambian women groups, have gone to sleep on these issues. When the 2011 Act was being legislated there was very little substantive discussion. It was all just business as usual. Hence though we now have a stronger framework in place than before, it is one with substantial holes as far as tackling domestic violence is concerned.

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