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February 22, 2019

New law tackles modern day domestic violence

Today, we have spouses who do not allow their spouses to work. They want their partners to remain at home and take care of the children or the farm. At the end of the month, the spouse who is working and maybe living in town brings some money home to support their partner who lives upcountry with the children.

They are told that all their needs will be met by the spouse who purports to be the provider of the family.

The foregoing is not very unusual in Kenya. If you asked many of these spouses who are deprived of the right to work, they will give you very sad stories of how they would love to work to generate their own income and enjoy financial independence were it not for the overarching spouse. This is nothing less than gender and or domestic violence in disguise which can no longer hold.

The Protection Against Domestic Violence Act 2015 has come to the aid of the victims of domestic violence.

This is an act of parliament to provide for the protection and relief of victims of domestic violence; to provide for the protection of a spouse and any children or other dependent persons and to provide for matters connected therewith.

The act says “economic abuse” includes the unreasonable deprivation of economic or financial resources to which an applicant is entitled or which the applicant requires, including household necessities, medical expenses, school fees, rent, mortgage expenses or other similar expenses. It also includes the denial of the right to seek employment or engage in any income-generating activity.

Many are living in very abusive setups in the hands of spouses or relatives. The act states that “emotional, verbal or psychological abuse” means a pattern of degrading, or humiliating conduct towards the applicant, including but not limited to the following repeated insults, ridicule or name-calling and repeated threats to cause emotional pain.

According to the act, “harassment” means engaging in a pattern of conduct that induces in an applicant the fear of imminent harm, including watching or loitering outside or near the building or place where the applicant resides, works, carries on business or studies.

It includes attempts to contact the applicant by telephone, electronic means, post or otherwise, whether or not a conversation ensues; and sending, delivering or causing the delivery of offensive or abusive documents or offensive objects to the applicant.

On the other hand, “intimidation” includes uttering or conveying a threat or causing an applicant to receive a threat which includes a fear of imminent harm to the applicant.”

“Physical abuse” includes any act or threatened act of physical violence towards the applicant while “stalking” includes pursuing or accosting a person.

Some learning institutions and communities are known to push or force young girls into virginity testing. The act defines it as the practice and process or examination of a female’s genitals for tears of the hymen.

According to the act, domestic violence means 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.

A person shall be deemed to be in a domestic relationship with another person if the person is married to that other person, has previously been married to that other person, is living in the same household with that person, has been in a marriage with the other person which has been dissolved or declared null, is a family member of that other person, or has been engaged to get married to that person, has a child with that other person or has a close personal relationship with the other person.

A person shall not be regarded as having a close personal relationship with another person by reason only of the fact that the person has an employer-employee relationship or an employee-employer relationship with that other person.

Without limiting the matters to which a court may have regard in determining, whether a person has a close personal relationship with another person, the court shall have regard to the nature and intensity of the relationship (not necessarily a sexual relationship), and in particular the amount of time the persons spend together, the place or places where that time is ordinarily spent, the manner in which that time is ordinarily spent and the duration of the relationship.

The act is a nice piece of legislation which will help create harmony in the home.

Next week we shall look at the legal mechanisms that the act has put in place to ensure that there is compliance with this law.

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