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Couples face jail over SMSPublish Date: Jun 21, 2009
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By Catherine Bekunda and Milton Olupot

SPOUSES risk spending two years in jail if they make abusive calls or send offensive messages to their partners when the Domestic Bill comes in place.

Alternatively, spouses face a fine of sh960,000 for the offence if the law is passed.

In addition to imprisonment and paying a fine, the court may order perpetuators of domestic violence to compensate the victim.

Spouses also face imprisonment for repeatedly watching or loitering around a building where their victim resides, works, studies or happens to be.

Constitutional affairs state minister and deputy Attorney General Fred Ruhindi tabled the Domestic Violence Bill 2009 before Parliament on Thursday.

The Bill provides for the protection of domestic violence victims and seeks to punish perpetuators.

Under the Bill, cases related to domestic violence will be tried by the local councils, the magistrate’s courts, family and children courts depending on the magnitude of the offence.

Under the proposed Bill, a complaint may be made to a Police officer or local council court.

Local council courts should make written referrals to the Police and the magistrate’s court or High Court if the perpetuator is a second or repeat offender, likely to inflict further harm on the victim and if, in the opinion of the court, the degree and nature of the violence warrants the involvement of the Police and the court.

The magistrate’s court may issue a protection order if it has confirmed that the perpetuator has committed, is committing or threatening to commit an act of domestic violence.

Under this, the perpetuator will be directed to stay away from anywhere near the victim.

In determining the claim for compensation, courts will consider the pain and suffering of the victim and the nature and extent of the physical or mental injury suffered.

Women MPs welcomed the Bill, saying it was long over due. Rukungiri Woman MP Winifred Matsiko said: “This is historical and should be handled expeditiously.”

Mary Karooro Okurut (Bushenyi Woman) said the Bill was not only for women and children, but also for men who are experiencing domestic violence.

Prime Minister Apolo Nsibambi said the Bill would educate the public on what their rights are.

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