Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Domestic Violence Act (Zimbabwe)

 The Domestic Violence Act (Zimbabwe)was promulgated in 2006 and gazetted in 2007. The Act was put in place to “make provision for the protection and relief of victims of domestic violence and to provide for matters connected with or incidental to the foregoing” (Zimbabwe 2006). Section 3 of the Act (Zimbabwe 2006, subsection 1) defines domestic violence as any unlawful act, omission or behavior which results in death or the direct infliction of physical, sexual, or mental injury to any complainant by a respondent and includes the following: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse, economic abuse, intimidation, harassment, stalking, forcible entry into the complainant’s residence where the parties do not share the same residence, depriving the complainant or hindering the complainant from access to or a reasonable share of the use of the facilities associated with the complainant’s place of residence.

A victim of domestic violence may report the violence to a police officer, who, according to Section 5 of the Act (Zimbabwe 2006) advises the complainant of the right to apply for relief under the Act and the right to lodge a criminal complaint against the perpetrator. Where the police officer suspects that a crime has been committed, is being committed or is threatened, he or she may arrest the respondent without warrant. The victim or his or her representative may apply for an interim protection order or a protection order for relief from abuse. A protection order is a document that a magistrate signs and is aimed at protecting the complainant from serious or substantial harm or discomfort or inconvenience, whether physical, emotional or economic.

The Act was a major accomplishment that acknowledged the seriousness of violence against women in Zimbabwe. Prior to the establishment of the Act, there had not been any law in Zimbabwe that specifically addressed domestic violence (Osirim [2003] in Makahamadze, Isacco&Chireshe 2011:3; Tichagwa 1998:66). The enactment of the Domestic Violence Act implies that domestic violence is being taken as a public affair that requires public prosecution.