‘A woman, a dog, and a walnut tree, the more you beat ’em, the better they be’ - The Sri Lankan legal framework for prevention of domestic violence and abuse, a crisis in the age of the pandemic:
The United Nations provides that - ‘Domestic abuse or "domestic violence" or "intimate partner violence" can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner. Abuse constitutes physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person affecting people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels irrespective of race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender.
A negative consequential effect on the population at large, of measures adopted by countries to include Sri Lanka to curb the spread of the Covid -19 virus, is the finding of an increase in domestic violence—gender-based violence, child abuse and neglect. The restrictions of movement, loss of income, isolation, overcrowded urban dwelling, worry, stress, uncertainty and anxiety, all of which factors contributing to this unfortunate situation.
Sri Lanka having recognized ‘Domestic Violence’ as a separate and distinct cause of action with the enactment of legislation specific, titled the ‘Prevention of Domestic Violence Act No. 34 of 2005’ certified by the Legislature on the 3rd of October 2005.
The legislation in this sphere although not creating new offences, was a progressive step considering the prevailing cultural, religious and other prevailing beliefs and norms that exist withing the diverse ethnic groups forming Sri Lankan society. Such paradigms allowing for a justification on one count or another as is said of the old English proverb, - ‘A woman, a dog, and a walnut tree, the more you beat ’em, the better they be’, violence being constructed as patriarchal privilege of the husband and the wife as the ‘chattel’ of the husband to be treated in any way he may want to.
The Legal framework in Sri Lanka for the prevention of and punishment for acts of domestic violence is thus, mainly found within the Penal Code Ordinance No. 2 of 1883 (the ‘PC’), the Code Criminal Procedure Act No. 15 of 1979 (referred to as the ‘CPC’) and the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act No. 34 of 2005 (referred to as the ‘PDVA’) (collectively referred to as the ‘relevant laws’). The Sri Lanka Police (‘SLP’) and in the case of children The National Child Protection Authority (‘NCPA’) established by Act No.50 of 1998 assists inter-alia in the co-ordination and monitoring of action against abuse and violence.
This is only an overview of the applicable law and should not be relied upon as legal advice or recommendation by D. L. & F. De Saram, a leading law firm in Sri Lanka.
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