Domestic violence is a threat or use of coercive force with the intent of inflicting bodily harm on a person and it is a gross violation of the fundamental human rights to be enjoyed by citizens as entrenched in Chapter IV of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). In the bid to curb this virus that has become a crucial issue, Nigeria enacted specific laws that combat the issues of domestic violence in Nigeria. In Lagos State, the Protection Against Domestic Violence Law No15 A 199 (2007) which is applicable only in Lagos State, came into force on the 8th of May 2007 as a law created for the protection against domestic violence of women and children and it also specifies the different types of domestic violence in Section 18 of the law.
It was enacted as a response to the incidents of violence against women and children in Lagos State, as different forms of violence are perpetrated against women on a daily basis, although recent cases have shown that men are also victims. Under the Lagos State law, any complaint against domestic violence can be filed at the Magistrate or High Court of Lagos State.
Some salient provisions of the law in relation to domestic violence are highlighted as follows;
- Section 1 of the law provides for the prohibition of domestic violence that no person shall commit any act of domestic violence against any person.
- Section 2 of the law provides that any complainant may in a prescribed manner apply to the court for a protection order and where the complainant is not represented by a legal representative, the Registrar of the court is to inform the complainant of the relief available in compliance with the law and the right to also lodge a criminal complaint against the respondent if a criminal offense has been committed by the respondent.
- Section 3 of the law provides that “notwithstanding the provisions of any other law, the application may be brought on behalf of a complainant by any other person, including a counselor, organization, health service provider, member of the Nigerian police force, social worker, teacher, who has an interest in the well being of the complainant; provided that the application shall be brought with the consent of the complainant except in the circumstance where the complainant is;
- A minor
- Mentally retarded
- Incapable to consent for fear of refusal or;
- A person whom the court is satisfied unable to provide the required consent”.
The complainant in a domestic violence matter is a person who is or has been in a domestic relationship with a respondent and who is subjected to an act of domestic violence while the respondent is a person who has committed an act of domestic violence, inclusive of a person who conspires, aids or facilitates or assist in the commission of domestic violence against a compliant.
- The application and an accompanying affidavit are brought to the judge’s chambers where the complainant may suffer undue hardship if the application is not dealt with immediately as provided by Section 2(4) and (5) of the law.
- As a means to protect victims of domestic violence, Section 4 of the law provides that a police officer can arrest without warrant any respondent at the scene of an incident of domestic violence when he or she reasonably suspects of having committed an offence that contains elements of violence against a complainant.
- Furthermore, the court in exercising its powers in respect of issuing a protection order can prohibit the respondent from the following actions as provided by Section 7 of the law;
- Committing any act or any further act of domestic violence
- Enlisting the help of another person to commit any of such act;
- Entering the residence shared by himself and the complainant provides that the court may impose this application only if it appears to be in the best interest of the complainant.
- Entering a specific part of such a shared residence;
- Entering the complainant’s residence;
- Preventing the complainant who ordinarily lives or lived in a shared residence as contemplated from entering or remaining in the shared residence or a specified part of the shared residence;
- Committing any other act as specified in the protection order.
- Section 7(4) goes further to state that the court shall order the respondent to pay monetary relief having regard to the financial needs and resources of the complainant and the respondent.
- Section 8 of the law provides that “whenever a court issued a protection order, the court shall make an order;
(a) Authorizing the issuance of a warrant for the arrest of the respondent in the prescribed form and
(b) Suspending the execution of such warrant subject to compliance with any prohibition, obligation, or order imposed in compliance with Section 7”.
- The protection order issued by the court can be varied or set aside by an application from the complainant or respondent as Section 10 of the law provides that “a complaint or a respondent may, upon written notice to the other part and the court concerned, apply for the variation or setting aside of a protection order”. And if the court is satisfied that good cause has been shown for the variation or setting aside of the protection order, it shall be issued an order to this effect, provided that the court shall not grant such an application unless it is satisfied that the application is made freely and voluntarily.
- Section 15 of the law provides that any person who contravenes any prohibition, condition, obligation, or order imposed in Section 7 shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N100, 000 or imprisonment for a period not exceeding five years or to both fine and imprisonment.
- Section 18 of the law defines domestic violence as physical abuse, sexual exploitation including but not limited to rape, incest, and sexual assault; starvation; emotional, verbal, and psychological abuse; economic abuse and exploitation, denial of basic education; intimidation; harassment; stalking; hazardous attack; damage to property; entry into a complainants residence without consent where the parties do not share the same residence; deprivation and any other controlling or abusive behavior.
There are several acts that can be categorized as domestic violence as provided by Section 18 of the Law. These are acts meted out on vulnerable women and children on a daily basis. The Lagos State with the aim of responding to the increased incidence of domestic voice enacted the Prohibition Against Domestic Violence Law of Lagos State, 2007 in addition to other laws that fight against domestic violence.
In conclusion, the above-listed sections are just a few salient provisions that give an overview of the domestic violence law of Lagos State that ensures that victims of domestic violence are protected.