Reliefs that can be granted under ‘protection orders’

Court hammer

Rinse Nyamuda

ONCE a protection order has been applied for under the Domestic Violence Act, a court shall decide on the application at its discretion. It may grant the relief or protection sought by the applicant (the abused), reject the application or provide an appropriate alternative relief based on the circumstances of the case. This article will briefly discuss some of the possible reliefs or protection that can be granted by a court.

Based on the circumstances of each case, a court can grant under section 11 of the Act, any of the following reliefs or protection to an abused person after successfully making an application for a protection order:

  • Forbid the abuser from committing or enlisting the help of another person to commit any act of domestic violence or abusive behaviour;
  • Direct the abuser to stay away from any premises or place where the abused resides, or any part of such premises;
  • Prohibit the abuser from entering or approaching any place or premises where or at which the abused works, attends or frequents, or any part of such premises;
  • Direct the abuser to pay emergency monetary relief in respect of the abused’s needs and those of any child or dependant of the abused, including household necessities, medical expenses, school fees and mortgage bond or rent payment;
  • Award the temporary custody of any child or dependant of the abuser to any person or institution and regulate rights of access by the abuser to such child or dependant;
  • Direct the abuser to afford the abused or any child or dependant of the abused access to their place of residence and use of the facilities which may be the source of an abuser’s abusive behaviour;
  • Direct the abuser to pay adequate compensation in the prescribed manner for any personal or physical injury, pain, trauma or loss suffered by the abused;
  • Direct that the abused or the abuser or both undergo counselling, with the abuser paying all the necessary expenses; or
  • Direct the abuser to do or not do any act or thing which the court considers necessary or desirable for the wellbeing of the abused or any child or dependant of the abused.

When a protection order has been issued by a court, any of the above reliefs can be granted to an abused person.

If granted, a protection order is valid for a period of five years before it lapses.

It is presumed that, irrespective of an abuser complying with the protection order, the five-year period offers both an abuser and the abused enough time to heal and reconcile their differences based on changed circumstances. Under such changed circumstances, a protection order can be revoked or cancelled by the abused by making an appropriate report to a court.

On the other hand, a court can extend a protection order for a further five-year period or less which it deems necessary for the protection of the abused.

Once a protection order has been issued and the sought relief granted by a court, it must be complied with.

However, an abuser has the right to apply for variation of a protection order.

This variation can also be granted by a court based on changed circumstances.

Any deliberate disregard or failure to comply with a protection order whether varied or not is deemed contempt of court.

Should the abused notify the court of this disregard or failure to comply, a court will direct the police to arrest an abuser on a charge of contempt of court in addition to the initial charges of domestic violence or abusive behaviour.

Therefore, instead of being force-marched by enforcement agents to comply with a protection order or face further charges of contempt of court, an abuser is urged to willingly abide by the protection order or reconcile with the abused for the sake of keeping peace between each other and within the community at large.