Whenever you mention domestic violence,chills run up and down our spines.Why would a loved one want to mete out violence in a family member? The plausible reasons why domestic violence is thriving in many country include: ignorance of the rights the party has; poverty; economic muscle of the abuser; fear of retaliation and or failure to report; cultural reasons like where it is believed it is proper for the man to beat his wife for discipline purpose; corruption; stigma.
Domestic violence in relation to any person, means violence against that person, or threat of violence or of imminent danger to that person, by any other person with whom that person is, or has been, in a domestic relationship.
There is a big need to bring domestic violence to an end.The time is now.
Unfortunately there are a host of legislative gaps in many systems that tend to form the catchment areas for domestic violence. Fortunately this state of affairs is no longer the story for the Kenyan families.
The preamble of the Constitution stipulates that the people of Kenya are committed to nurturing and protecting the well-being of the individual, the family, communities and the nation. This is the fundamental basis for protecting the individual from domestic violence.
We now have a new law that has come to protect and insulate the family from violence known as The Prevention of Domestic Violence Act.This Act is proactive in nature and unlike The Marriage Act it is proactive.It focuses on the precaution against and prevention of domestic violence.
The Act is wide in scope and it recognised very many different forms of violence like:-
(a) abuse that includes- child marriage; female genital mutilation; forced marriage; forced wife inheritance; interference from in-laws; sexual violence within marriage; virginity testing; and widow cleansing;
(b) damage to property;
(d) depriving the applicant of or hindering the applicant from access to or a reasonable share of the facilities associated with the applicant's place of residence;
(e) economic abuse;
(f) emotional or psychological abuse;
(g) forcible entry into the applicant's residence where the parties do not share the same residence;
(k) physical abuse;
(l) sexual abuse;
(n) verbal abuse; or
(o) any other conduct against a person, where such conduct harms or may cause imminent harm to the safety, health, or well-being of the person.
The court has powers to make protection order if it is satisfied that the respondent is using or has used, domestic violence against the applicant, or a child of the applicant's family or both; and the making of an order is necessary for the protection of the applicant or a child of the applicant's family or both.
The court further has powers to award compensation that is just and reasonable to a victim of domestic violence. Violence and the threat of violence at home creates fear and can destroy the normal family functioning. Violence in the home affects children. Children and young people don't have to see the violence to be affected by it.
Living with domestic violence can cause physical and emotional harm to children and young people who live within domestic violence quarters are more likely to display aggressive behaviour, experience anxiety, have reduced social skills, suffer symptoms of depression and show emotional distress.
Article 23 of the Constitution sets out some reliefs that a victim or even a third party can claim from the court like an injunction restraining the violator from attacking them as well as compensation for injury suffered.
There is a glaring need for awareness creation around the foregoing rights.
The Sexual Offenses Act and the Penal Code have an allay in the new legislation.Marriage Act 2014 has provisions which a victim of domestic violence meted out by their spouse can invoke.The violence amounts to cruelty which is a ground for the dissolution of a marriage.
The days of domestic violence are numbered now that the heat has been turned on the vice from a Constitutional and legislative angle. The judges and the Director of public prosecutions who play a pivotal role in the fight will not let down the family.