The Lagos State Government has begun reviewing its “Protection Against Domestic Violence Law (DVL) 20215,’’ as part of efforts to combat rising cases of domestic violence.
The Rule of Law and Anti-Corruption (RoLAC) programme of the British Council and Lagos State Domestic and Sexual Violence Response Team (DSVRT) organised a meeting on Tuesday toward achieving this.
The meeting brought together judges, magistrates, police officers, students, and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) to contribute to the review.
Sherifat Solebo, a judge and member of DSVRT, said the review and reform of the state’s DVL which was enacted in 2007 were long overdue.
Mrs Solebo noted that the 14-year-old DVL which is currently enforced in Lagos preceded the Federal Act – the Violence Against Persons Prohibition (VAPP) Act 2015, by seven years.
She explained that during the COVID-19 lockdown, there was an increase in domestic violence cases in the state.
The judge said this informed the calls for a review of the law as well as agitations that Lagos should adopt the (VAPP) Act 2015.
“There were a series of meetings with the wife of governor of Lagos State, Dr Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu. Some felt our DVL is adequate while some said it should be brought in line with the Federal Act (VAPP).
“To my mind and understanding, the latter (VAPP) criminalises violence against persons, whereas the DVL protects the rights of persons in domestic violence.
“I, therefore, urge us to take a cursory look at the DVL using the VAPP as a guide among other laws and come up with suggestions that are reflective of our peculiar circumstances and situation,’’ she said.
Presenting an overview of the current DVL, Kikelomo Ayeye, a chief magistrate, highlighted some areas in the law which needed reform and review.
Mrs Ayeye said that there should be an acknowledgment of the mental effects of domestic violence in the new law and not only the physical effects.
“Expeditious access to the justice system should be projected in the new law and it should be simple enough for lay men and illiterates to understand and know how to go about it.
“The new law should look at the best interests of children. Training requirements must be added to the new DVL because of the psychology of judges.
“In addition to the Prohibitive and Protection Orders issued by the courts in domestic violence matters, there is a need for diverse types of Orders such as Intervention Orders.
“The need for independent professional counselors should be mandated to handle domestic violence cases and there should be sections in the law which prohibit perjury and mischief in proceedings,’’ she said.
Tola Oguntade, a judge, said that men should be sufficiently protected in provisions in the new DVL.
“Prior to sitting at the Family Court, I used to think that domestic violence was perpetuated by men but I was wrong.
“As we say protect women, protect children. I say protect the men.
“The average Nigerian is ignorant of their rights. They think it is difficult to enforce their rights; we need to educate them because domestic violence is a destroyer of lives and livelihood,’’ Mrs Oguntade said. (NAN)