The Protection Against Domestic Violence Law of Lagos State 2007 (the Law) was enacted for the purpose of providing protection against domestic violence and providing redress for those who fall victim to domestic violence.
Domestic violence is defined under the Law to include, among others, physical abuse, sexual exploitation, entry into the complainant’s residence without consent where the parties do not share a residence, emotional, verbal and psychological abuse and stalking.
Section 5 of the Law empowers the Court to issue an interim protective Order against a Respondent, notwithstanding the fact the Respondent has not been given notice of the proceedings. Such an Order may be made where the Respondent is committing or has committed an act of domestic violence and where undue hardship may be suffered by the complainant as a result of such domestic violence if a protection Order is not issued immediately.
Furthermore, Section 7 of the Law stipulates that the court may make protective Orders which prohibit the Respondent from committing any act or any further act of domestic violence, enlisting the help of another person to commit any of such act, entering a residence shared by himself/herself and the complainant, amongst others. In two recent cases, the High Court of Lagos State had cause to apply the aforementioned provisions of the Law.
In the first case, (O) v. (O) the Petitioner had been married to the Respondent for several years and constantly suffered domestic violence in the form of physical and verbal abuse from the Respondent, which ultimately caused the Petitioner to flee the matrimonial home. In spite of the Petitioner’s forced departure, the Respondent continued to stalk, harass and threaten the Petitioner. The Petitioner consequently brought an application for Orders of interim protection against the Respondent to restrain him from stalking or assaulting the Petitioner or contacting her through any means.
In the second case, (I) v (I) the Petitioner was equally a victim of physical abuse, resulting in bodily injury to her in the hands of her husband, the Respondent, in the course of their marriage. She therefore brought an application in the High Court to seek certain Orders, which included Orders to restrain the Respondent from assaulting the Petitioner or contacting her through any means, pending the determination of her substantive petition.
In both of the cases, the court granted the Petitioners’ applications after considering the provisions of Sections 5(2), (4), 6 and 7 (1) of the Law in the light of the Petitioners’ circumstances and therefore made interim Orders of protection against their respective Respondents.
It is instructive to note that the Law is not applicable only to spouses in matrimonial relationships (that is to say spouses of marriages celebrated under the Marriage Act, Customary law or Islamic law) but is also applicable to persons who are family members related by consanguinity, affinity or adoption, persons who are or were in an engagement, dating or customary relationship, including an actual or perceived romantic, intimate relationship of any duration; or persons who share or recently shared the same residence, including domestic servants or staff, housekeepers or unpaid licensees.