Domestic Violence Bill Stalled

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The House of Representatives voted for the Bill to be discussed further, and subsequently passed into law.

Presence of foreign guests in House Chamber may have compelled deferment

The House of Representatives on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, voted nervously to defer the passage of the draft law to allow individual lawmakers to scrutinize it in discussion with their respective constituents.

Yesterday’s deferment came in spite of the “protest of appeal” by some elderly women from the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), in their dominant white, staged on the grounds of the Capitol Building.

Other women and youth groups, including women from the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Protection, joined similar protest and the indulgence of the House’s Joint Committee on Judiciary, Gender and Good Governance on the passage of the critical and landmark Domestic Violence Act.

Nimba County District #1 Representative Jeremiah Koung on Tuesday, July 2, 2019, during the 43rd day sitting, proffered the motion that the Domestic Violence Act be dissected and brought back on the House’s Agenda on Tuesday, July 9.

But a motion for reconsideration against the time for the comeback of the bill was proffered by Montserrado County District #8 Representative Acarous Gray, and the vote carried that the draft bill should return on the House’s floor on Thursday, July 4, 2019.

Twenty-eight Representatives against six voted to modify the motion for Thursday, July 4.

Members of the Diplomatic Corps in Tuesday’s House session, listening to the debate on the Domestic Violence Bill.

Amid the highly expected passage of the Domestic Violence Act yesterday, some political pundits believed that the Tuesday’s meeting with the leadership of the House of Representatives by members of the Diplomatic Corps, and their attendances in Session to witness the debate of the bill, might have caused the setback of the passage of the bill.

United States Ambassador Christine Elder, UN Women Country Director Marie Goreth Nakazima, and Swedish Ambassador Ingrid Wetterqvist, including a representative from the European Union and other international organizations, were part of Tuesday’s session.

Political analysts believe that the Liberian government might be under pressure from the international community to approve the Domestic Violence Law of 2014, but that the practice of the Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) be included in the bill as an illegal act. This assertion could not be independently confirmed up to the publication of this story.

Meanwhile, Grand Kru County District #2 Representative J. Fonati Koffa, who chairs the Joint Committee on Judiciary, Gender and Good Governance, expressed the hope of the passage of the bill on Thursday, July 4, while Gender Minister Wilhelmina Piso Saydee Tarr expressed the women’s disappointment of the delay over the passage of the bill.

Grand Kru County District #2 Representative J. Fonati Koffa (right) expresses the hope for the passage of the bill, while Gender Minister Wilhelmina Piso Saydee Tarr (left) says the women were disappointed over the delay.

Rep. Koffa, who led the discussion on the Domestic Violence Bill in the House’s Chamber, told his colleagues that the Joint Committee has modified the ambiguity of all the arising issues in the bill, including changing the name of it to the Domestic Violence Bill of 2019.

Rep. Koffa maintained the bill recognizes domestic violence as a serious crime against women, men and children, including the society, which takes on many forms such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, economic abuse, neglect and exploitation.

“The bill recognizes that the legal system has ineffectively dealt with family violence in the past, allowing abusers to escape effective prosecution or financial liability, but has not adequately acknowledged the criminal nature of domestic violence; that, although many laws have changed in practice, there is still widespread failure to appropriately protect and assist victims of violent acts,” he said.

Koffa represents Grand Kru County in the 54th Legislature. He argued that the issue of FGM or female circumcision, which was absent from the reintroduced bill, will be introduced as “a different standalone bill.” Reiterating his opposition to the FGM practice, he said he is a champion of the rights of women.

He called on his colleagues to support the passage of the Bill, “because they cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

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