The Special Law Commission on the Review of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act has said that gaps identified in the Act are not enough to render implementation ineffective.
Review Commission chairperson, Justice Ivy Kamanga, said Monday on the sidelines of a regional consultative workshop on the review of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act that, although most of the concerns raised against the same were valid, implementation of the Act has helped strengthen families.
"Gaps that have been identified cannot affect operation of the law. While there are misconceptions about the Act, it has, on the whole, helped to strengthen families. The Act was intended to build families and, therefore, offers husbands and wives the opportunity to iron out issues while still together," Kamanga said.
Kamanga acknowledged, however, that there were challenges in enforcing some provisions of the Act. These challenges include language and lack of structures to support some of the options the Act offers judicial officers.
"For example, the Act is not clear on the issue of dealing with civil wrong or criminal wrong. The other issue is that, while the law encourages counseling as one of the remedial actions, there are no structures necessary in dealing with perpetrators of domestic violence," Kamanga said.
Kamanga added that culture is another setback in the implementing the Act, citing the issue of enforcing court orders. She said it was practically difficult to enforce Occupation and Protection orders to the husband in patrimonial systems of marriage when the husband is in the wrong.
"So, what happens when a man marries a woman under the patrimonial system brings her to his home village, and starts abusing her? If the court orders that the man should leave the house, where does he go since it's his home? Likewise, what happens to a woman who brings her husband home under the matrimonial system, starts abusing the husband, and the court orders that the woman should move out of the home in order to protect the man? That is why we are also consulting traditional leaders," she said.
Kamanga had earlier on told delegates that it was implementation challenges like these that prompted the Ministry of Gender, Children and Community Development to make a submission in 2009, asking the Law Commission to review the same.
The chairperson observed that domestic violence threatened the security of individuals and society as a whole, and that the most painful aspect is that these abuses take place in homes where people should, otherwise, feel safe.
Some quarters of society have expressed concerns that provisions of the Act are also ambiguous on issues of fines and imprisonment. They question the rationale behind sending economic and psychological abusers to jail.
The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act came into force in May 2006.