GIS - 25 November, 2015: “I am confident that by the next session of the National Assembly we would have brought the necessary amendments to strengthen the legislative framework in respect of combatting the scourge of domestic violence in our Republic.”
The statement was made by the Minister of Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare, Mrs Marie-Aurore Perraud, yesterday at the sitting of the National Assembly in reply to the Private Notice Question regarding domestic violence.
“The Protection from Domestic Violence Act will be amended,” affirmed Mrs Perraud, “to provide for a more comprehensive definition of ‘domestic violence’ so as to include psychological, sexual and economic violence that occur within the family or between former or current spouses or partners, whether or not the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the victim.”
The Minister stressed that changes will be made to the Criminal Code, with a view of, among others, criminalising all forms of domestic violence, including the intentional conduct of seriously impairing the psychological integrity of a spouse or partner through coercion or threats. She added that the introduction of harsher penalty is also envisaged when offences are committed against, inter alia, a person with special need, a pregnant woman or a person who due to whatever reason is incapable of resisting; when a weapon is used; when the act is committed in the presence of a minor; or in repeated incident of domestic violence, regardless of the level of injury.
Other provisions to be made in the Criminal Code, as stated by the Minister, are:
· for manslaughter, committed by a spouse or partner of the victim, be treated as aggravating circumstances, and the related sentences be inflicted;
· for rape, to include marital rape;
· for section 242 of the Code , which provides that manslaughter committed by any person on his spouse, as well as on his accomplice, at the very moment he finds them in the act of adultery is excusable, be repealed; and
· for deferred prosecution agreements, whereby the Director of Public Prosecutions can enter into an agreement with an alleged perpetrator not to prosecute for a domestic offence, subject to the alleged perpetrator taking the commitment to attend a rehabilitation programme and not to indulge in further acts of domestic violence.
The Minister also called for the setting up of a Specialised Domestic Court to guarantee the rights of victims of domestic violence. Regarding cases when victims and witness do not want to confront the perpetrator during court proceedings, Mrs Perraud said that provision will be made in the Court Act for video link.
According to the Minister, following consultations with the Police, it has been agreed that provision be made in the Police Act so that Police may arrest, without warrant and upon reasonable ground of suspicion, a person who committed an offence of Domestic Violence of an aggravated nature. “The Police is also willing to extend its assistance to Court Ushers whenever required in cases of domestic violence,” she added.
Study on the extent, nature and cost of domestic violence
Highlighting the necessity for a new study on the economic burden of domestic violence, Mrs Perraud announced that a Call for Proposals will be launched at the end of November 2015 for a study on Intimate Partner Violence that will focus on the Prevalence, Causes, Consequences and Cost of Intimate Partner Violence on the Mauritian Economy.
She pointed out that the study will provide policy recommendations, with specific indicators, that will enable the development of a Costed Action Plan and appropriate strategies to deal with Intimate Partner Violence through prevention and appropriate intervention mechanisms and measures. The study will be partly financed under the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) assisted programme and is expected to start in January 2016.
It is recalled that a study on the extent, nature and cost of domestic violence to the Mauritian economy was conducted by the Mauritius Research Council for the period 2008 – 2009 and indicated that the total cost of domestic violence was estimated at Rs1.4 billion.
National Coalition against Domestic Violence Committee
As regards the National Coalition against Domestic Violence Committee, Mrs Perraud said that the Committee was set up under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Office, with representatives from both the public and private sectors as well as the civil society. She informed the House that the report of the Committee is being finalised and will be presented to Cabinet for the implementation of the recommendations.
The Minister underlined that domestic violence is a national issue and the collaboration of all stakeholders is required. It is noted that the number of cases of domestic violence reported to the police since 2010 to date is 17,688.
Government Information Service, Prime Minister’s Office, Level 6, New Government Centre, Port Louis, Mauritius. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website:http://gis.gov.mu