Should emotional abuse be criminalised?

Last week Theresa May the UK’s Home Office  boss announced a consultation on whether the law on domestic violence should be strengthened and in particular whether psychological abuse should be criminalised.

In this post I consider implications opinions on this matter as well as the impact of domestic violence on African Women.

As you can imagine, the views on this matter are polarised between those that argue that there are currently several laws that cover domestic violence and those that argue that the current laws are ineffective because they do not address matters such psychological abuse. Proponents of the proposed changes argue that, psychological abuse is worse than physical abuse and as such a law that criminalises it is needed as a matter of urgency.

But what do we mean by psychological abuse? Psychological abuse as I understand it takes the form of persistent controlling behaviour that sees the perpetrator isolating the victim from their social circles including family and friends, controls their appearance, to include sense of dress and weight, controls their finances and even food.

In an African setting, I’ve come across situations where the perpetrator (usually a man) has such control over the woman that he will not allow her to take up formal employment.

In one such situation, having secured a job as an Human Resources Executive, a woman was told she could not take up this position by her husband  and to enforce this, he locked her in their bedroom whilst he went to work.  As she was determined to take up her new role, she escaped through the windows and managed to get to work

If you are a regular reader of this blog you will recall this post about women in Kisoro SW Uganda. In most African countries, African women are excluded from property ownership and in the case of the women in Kisoro, this exclusion is the difference between the women being able to feed their children and starvation. In my mind this is a form of control and by implication psychological abuse.

For that reason  I am on the side that want the law in this area to be strengthened and I would indeed like to see governments all over the world adopt a similar position.

Domestic abuse ebbs away at the confidence and self esteem of the person at the receiving end of it. It makes them question their self worth and as such  they become ineffective in all areas of their lives. consequently they become dependent on the perpetrator for everything.

Here in the UK where systems are robust and vulnerable people have an expectation to be protected by various institutions some perpetrators still go undetected and as such unpunished. Spare a thought therefore for the African woman whose government may not recognise domestic violence as a crime!

Have you got a view on any of the issues raised here?

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