Domestic relations bill tabled in Uganda

Domestic violence is a major developmental challenge across the world. It cuts across race, gender, age, class and ethnic differences.

The Domestic relations Bill, that was tabled in Parliament by the state minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Fred Ruhindi recently, casts a ray of hope for many people.

If passed, it will put to rest the unrestlessness by mainly women activists and organisations who were planning to meet the President over the delayed passing of family laws.

The bill will largely address issues of domestic violence.

The proposed legislation provides for the protection and relief to victims of domestic violence. This is important because it will make the current laws stronger.

The bill provides for; the punishment of perpetrators of domestic violence; procedure and guidelines to be followed by the court in relation to protection and compensation of victims of domestic violence; and the jurisdiction of courts including protection and enforcement of orders.

The bill also provides for empowering the family and children’s court to handle cases of domestic violence. More so, cases of domestic violence will be handled by the local council courts, the family and children’s court and the magistrate’s court in the proposed law.

Parliament as an institution will play its role but the onus is on the implementation and law enforcement unit to make the laws useful.

It is also important for women in Uganda to utilise international instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination.

This, however, requires a lot of awareness and education by both the Government and the non-governmental organisations, (NGOs) in addition to counselling and provision of shelter for the victims. Domestic violence is condemned in all its manifestations. Be it husband to wife or wife to husband. All efforts in combating this ugly inhumane or animalistic behaviour should be supported. There is no room for abuse of love, but respect is expected from both sides.

More so, NGOs which play a big role in this matter of domestic violence need to coordinate in order to create effective programmes to equip the battered with skills.

Women who have experienced violence, particularly those in rural areas, should be supported in order to have socio-development of the country.
Much as good laws may be in place, the negative traditional beliefs and attitudes towards women must change.

Campaigners argue that changing attitudes is a priority — and not only among the general public. The community’s role is paramount in the abolition of domestic violence. At an early age, children should learn to respect women and realise that their mothers and fathers are partners in the family. By working with men in the broader economic sector, everyone — both men and women — will be able to access opportunities availed to them and there should not be a hindrance .

“There is no cultural practice that says it is acceptable to beat up your partner but within these practices it is more evident that they are to be protected.”

Uganda should borrow a leaf from South Africa which enacted the law 10 years ago to combat the high levels of domestic violence in the Rainbow nation.


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