The Domestic Violence Act (Chapter 481) defines ‘Domestic Violence’ as “any act of violence, even if only verbal, perpetrated by a household member upon another household member and includes any omission which causes physical or moral harm to the other”.
The law adopts a wide definition of ‘violence’ for the purpose of defining ‘domestic violence’ and such definition overlaps with criminal law. Certain acts which constitute domestic violence may also constitute a criminal offence or a contravention. This is because certain forms of violence are punishable independently from the fact that they also constitute domestic violence.
For example generally speaking slight bodily harm (a form of violence) is punishable by the Criminal Code with an imprisonment term not exceeding 3 months. This form of violence may be punished independently from it being committed in the domestic environment. However if such violence is committed in the domestic environment then other provisions of law come into effect.
The definition of Domestic Violence specifies that the ‘violence’ may be the result of:
- physical harm,
- psychological harm (there are different forms violence that leads to psychological violence and these could be emotional harm through name calling or threatening, serious neglect, intimidation or control)
- acts of omission (i.e. one exercises violence on another person by failing to prevent harm. For example a mother knows that her child has his finger stuck in a drawer and fails to help the child).
For violence to be deemed ‘domestic’ it must be committed by one ‘household member’ on another ‘household member’. Household members are:
- persons married or formerly married to each other;
- persons living in the same household as the offender or who had lived with the offender within a period of one year preceding the offence;
- persons whose marriage has been dissolved or declared null;
- parents and their children;
- other adults sharing the same household;
- persons who are, or have been, formally or informally engaged with a view to get married;
- persons who are related to each other either by consanguinity or affinity up to the third degree inclusively;
- persons having or having had a child in common;
- the child conceived but yet unborn of any one of the persons mentioned in paragraphs (i) to (viii), both inclusive;