The Plenary of the House of Representatives following an intense debate on Thursday finally reached an agreement to pass the “Domestic Violence Act of 2019.”
The Act which has been lingering in the corridors of the National Legislature since 2014, seeks to prevent and eradicate sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) against women, men and children.
The passage of the “Domestic Violence Act” during Thursday’s session followed an intense debate by members of the House of Representatives.
Part of the argument centered primarily on a provision contained in the document which points specifically to a proposition on whether or not a male/female in a married relationship should be permitted to read the contents of his/her partner’s phone.
Majority of the lawmakers who argued on this subject affirmed that there is no invasion of privacy between husband and wife and as such that part of the bill should be removed.
During the debate, Maryland County District #3 Representatives Isaac Roland argued that the “Act” was complicated and as such lawmakers should be given time to reach out to their constituents for further discussion and return to Plenary with outcome.
However, Grand Bassa County District #4 Representative Vincent Willie said “We have a culture, our chiefs has the right to marry more than one woman, and they have the right to have surveillance over their wives, so, should we ignore our culture because there is a law that a person will be penalized for keeping surveillance.”
Giving reasons why the Bill should be passed by the House of Representatives, Montserrado County District# 2 Representative Jimmy Smith said the subject matter was one of the challenges that being faced by in Liberia. The Bill, he said, will be a testimony to Liberia’s effort to align itself with international practice.
“This Bill, yes it is about Liberia, but it is about the integrity of Liberia. Let me plead with my colleagues to pass this Bill today with no further delay,” he noted.
House Speaker Bhofal Chambers then said the issue of violence is an emergency and the issue of domestic violence should be the concern of every citizen.
Still defending why the Bill should be passed, Grand Kru County District # 2 Representative Fonati Kofa maintained that the purpose of the Bill is to make unlawful act of domestic violence, including threats to commit physical or sexual abuse.
Kofa furthered noted, that the Bill is not intended to control marriage, but to intervene in the case where someone is forcing another person against their will, adding that this falls under the emotional clause of the Bill.
“This Bill also protects children, it also protects workers that may be in institutions where they are forced to do things against their will, and not just in home,” he said, adding, “ That is what this Bill intends to cover, we are hoping that this law will not be able to get into a marriage to tell a man and a woman how to negotiate their religious things or control their homes,” Kofa explained.
“This Bill has spent more time with us and we have read and discussed it, I think in totality we need to protect our colleagues interest and Liberia at large in terms of making sure we pass this Bill today, I suggest that the Ministry of Gender conducts further training for the implementation of the Bill, there should be a need for a regulation that will further define and specified some terms in the Bill, Kofa cited.
After hours of deliberations, Bomi County District #1 Representative Edwin Snowe made a motion in which recommended the passage of the Bill.
Following his motion the Bill was unanimously endorsed by members of the lower chambers. Its currently awaits concurrence from the Senate.