by Stanley Azuakola
The Rivers State Domestic Violence Prohibition Bill, 2014 was on Thursday committed to an ad hoc committee by the Rivers State House of Assembly. The committee, according to Speaker Otelemaba Dan-Amachree is expected to organize a public hearing and submit report in two weeks time.
But even before it got to that stage the house members debated the bill and the position of some lawmakers is already raising doubt on whether the bill which would ensure protection for spouses in abusive relationships and undergoing gender violence in their marriages.
Most of the lawmakers kicked against the bill, calling for its withdrawal on grounds that the law may be detrimental to men who want to exercise their authority as head of their homes in future. The male-dominated assembly also said that the bill would amount to duplication of other existing laws such the criminal code and the 1999 constitution.
House Leader, Chidi Lloyd, who became famous last year for his violent conduct when he used a mace to hit a fellow lawmaker said that the House should be “mindful of passing a bill that they will be first offenders.”
Some of the lawmakers were of the opinion that third parties like police and social health workers should not be involved in domestic affairs. Hon. Anderson Miller said on his part that instead of police and social workers being third parties, neighbours and family members should act as such. In his opinion, the social worker or police may not be there when the incident occurred and cannot give accurate account of what happened.
The bill sponsor, Hon. Victoria Nyeche, explained that the bill if passed will provide room for people to pursue their rights when violated. She argued that the bill is all encompassing as some men and children also suffer domestic violence.
The ad-hoc committee set up by the speaker on the issue will be headed by Ngozi Chioma, while Rev. Belema Okpokiri, Lucky Odili, Okechukwu Akara Worgu, Ibiso Nwuche, and Chief Barizazi Taneh are members.
In the national assembly, a similar bill, Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill (VAPP) has also been stalled.