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Thursday, 8 August 2013

Reversing domestic violence, 3rd Edition

The NGOCC has again called for the introduction of 'fast track courts' to deal with the rising number of domestic violence cases. According to the chairperson Beatrice Grillo the level of domestic violence has risen over the past two years.

There's a prevailing view among many people, especially women organisations that domestic violence has been on the rise for some years now. I don't doubt that there are more incidents of domestic violence being reported (and recorded). What is less clear is whether this is a genuine increase in acts of violence. It is not clear why domestic violence should be on the increase (or is there a plausible reason).

My guess is that it is probably the case of more women coming forward and being confident of reporting such violence. If, so the alleged increase may well have a silver lining. We certainly want detection to rise so that our women don't suffer in secret.

I am equally sceptical about the idea of 'fast track courts'. Why only have these courts just for domestic violence? Why not other areas like corruption? The obvious answer is that we don't want to create multiple streams of judicial processes. Hence any fast track courts must have an overwhelming case. It's not clear that case has been made convincingly.

In general, i find the obsession by NGOCC with fast track courts disappointing because it distracts then from pushing for important legal reforms that are needed to tackle the menace of domestic violence. A key need is the introduction of a new law that allows pre-court evidence to carry substantial weight in court proceedings. This will help secure more convictions because often cases fall apart because women later withdraw their testimony due to family and cultural pressures.

Finally, we should 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 people, 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 2011, it is one with substantial holes as far as tackling domestic violence is concerned.

Question:  Do you think domestic violence is on the rise? If so, what has caused the increase? How should government tackle this problem? Share in the comments below. 

Chola Mukanga | Economist | Writer
Copyright © Zambian Economist 2013

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