-Focus On Domestic Violence Bill
By Chris F Pewu
Members of the 54th National Legislature met Wednesday in the Port City of Buchanan, Grand Bassa County to brainstorm on a Domestic Violence Bill; the Bill seeks to end all forms of violence against women and girls.
The Buchanan hearing brought together several lawmakers, including Grand Kru County District #2 Representative, J. Fonati Koffa; Lofa County District #2 Representative, Juli Fartorma Wieh; Margibi County District #3 Representative, Ellen Attoh; Nimba County District #6 Representative, Dorwohn Twaln Gleekia and Montserrado County District#3 Representative, Ceebee C.D Barshell among others. The hearing was done at Hotel Buchanan.
Addressing reporters at Hotel Buchanan, House Committee Chair on Gender, Rep.J. Fonati Koffa said, the Bill is intended to improve the quality of life of women and children who are being abused, adding that the it is also intended prevent further abuses.
Rep. Koffa noted that the meeting was to structure components of the bill, and properly scrutinize it for ultimate passage into law; according to him, it was important for the legislators on gender to scrutinize the bill and identify flaws that could possibly delay its passage.
He declared that the aspect of the Bill which talks about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) was not considered as domestic violence or abuse, adding that its removal could compromise the country’s cultural heritage.
The omitted FGM practices which are considered harmful and painful, are not included in the Domestic Violence Law as considered as serious crime against individual and society which take many forms, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and exploitation.
However, in remarks, Gender Minister Willimetta Piso -Saydee Tarr, added that the bill was important to stop domestic violence against women; she expressed the hope that the lawmakers would demonstrate commitment in its passage into law.
Min. Tarr also recommended an amendment in the draft law which was proposed by the Association of Female Lawyers of Liberia (AFELL) that domestic violence must be considered as first degree while perpetrators of rape must be sentenced to of minimum 25 years imprisonment.
For her part, the Co- chairperson on the Joint -Committee on Gender, Lofa County District#2 Representative Juli fartoma Wieh, said the Domestic Violence bill should be passed to serve as a deterrent.
The lawmakers also argued that “emotional, verbal and psychological abuse” of the bill is also ambiguous, which means in the law, a pattern or one time occurrence of degrading or humiliating conduct towards a person, including any behavior that causes emotional damage and reduction of self-esteem, or that harms and disturbs full development, or that aims at degrading or controlling a persons’ actions.
Meanwhile, Rep. Fonati Koffa , who Chairs the House Joint Committee announced that the draft bill following the public hearing will be presented to the Joint Committee on Monday, July 1 and will be subsequently submitted to the House’s Plenary for approval.
Other lawmakers who attended the hearing are Rep. Gunpue L. Kargon, Rep. Joseph Matthews, Rep. Beyan Howard, Rep. Clarence Massaquoi, Rep Byron Zahnwea, and Rep. Joseph Somwarbi and others.