New Bill to fight social media abuse

New Bill to fight social media abuse

MASERU – IF you are in the business of forwarding lewd jokes or images on WhatsApp and other social media to friends and foes, you could soon be in trouble if a new Bill Parliament is working on is passed into law.
The new Bill will seek to criminalise the rampant misuse of social media.
Those who breach the new law will be subject to heavy penalties of as much as M5 000 or two-year jail terms.
The Provisions of Domestic Violence Bill 2019 also seeks to deal with rampant cases of domestic violence in Lesotho.
The Bill says a person who repeatedly makes, sends or delivers or causes another person to repeatedly make, send or deliver abusive and offensive calls or electronically transmitted messages, letters, telegrams, packages, facsimiles, electronic mails or objects to the complainant commits an offence.

In the Bill, “technological abuse” includes any acts where a person uses a communication device with the intention to threaten, annoy, intimidate or defame another person’s reputation, dignity or safety.
It will also be a crime to supply, send and share, expose or display gratuitous violence, nude or seminude material, photos or videos and or sexually suggestive messages to another person.
The Bill also seeks to criminalise stalking, which it describes as “engaging in a pattern of conduct that induces in a complainant fear of imminent harm or feelings of annoyance”.
It will be a crime for a person to “repeatedly watch or loiter outside of or near any place the complainant resides, works, carries on business, studies or happen to be”.

If a Lesotho citizen commits a domestic violence crime whether wholly within the country or partly in another country he “may be tried and punished under this law in the same manner as if such act had been done wholly within the jurisdiction” of Lesotho.
Also an offence committed by any citizen of Lesotho within the confines of a Lesotho diplomatic mission abroad shall be tried within Lesotho as if the offence had been committed within Lesotho.
The Bill also seeks to criminalise “neglecting an elderly person within a domestic sphere where there is duty of care on the part of the perpetrator”.
It makes it a criminal act to fail to provide adequate care, food, clothing, shelter, and health to the elderly person when you are able to do that.
Also failure to report domestic violence by people who have a duty to report attracts a criminal liability, which leads to imprisonment or fine or both.
“Duty to report” includes reporting of acts of domestic violence by teachers, social workers, chiefs, health care professionals and police officers.

The Bill says any person with duty to report who without reasonable excuse fails to report an act of domestic violence commits an offence.
Village chiefs will be given legal powers to oversee issues of restorative justice if there is any need.
The Bill says where a need for restorative justice process has been established by the parties in a domestic relationship, an ad hoc council shall be convened with an objective of guiding the process.
The village chief or his appointee shall preside over the process.
Restorative justice means a system of customary practices which include either criminal justice or civil justice and focuses on the needs of survivors and perpetrators of domestic violence and the community at large.
The Bill says the chief, when overseeing restorative justice, shall provide “an opportunity to the person or persons who are in a domestic relationship or community affected by the harm caused to express their views regarding the impact of such harm”.
Chiefs will also encourage restitution.

They will also promote forgiveness and reconciliation between persons who are in a domestic relationship.
They will also empower communities to address problems of persons in a domestic relationship before resorting to criminal justice, with a view to avoiding the latter course.
Where a defendant fails to comply with resolutions taken during the restorative justice process, it shall be the duty of the complainant to report the violating act to the police;
The complainant may also report the violating act or acts to a relevant court of law for holding the defendant liable for contempt of court.

“Marriage or any other relationship shall not be a defence against a charge under this Act,” the Bill reads.
It says where a person has been assaulted the perpetrator shall be fined not less than M10 000 or jailed for up to a year or both.
Where the offence committed is exposure or display of genital organs by one person to another, the court may impose any appropriate sentence.
Where the offence is committed under the coercive circumstances, the offender will be imprisoned for a period of not more than eight years.

Where the convicted person is infected with sexually transmissible disease and at the time of the commission of the offence he had knowledge or reasonable suspicion of the infection, he will be imprisoned to the period of not more than eight years.
A person who makes false or misleading statements in an application or affidavit under this Act and or makes publications prohibited under this Act commits an offence and is liable, on conviction, to a fine of M5 000 or imprisonment of not more than two years or both.

Also a person who incites another person to commit an act of domestic violence is guilty of an offence of domestic violence as if that person has committed such an offence.
The Bill seeks to give the Ministry of Education a duty to include into the school curriculum domestic violence education from early childhood development up to high school level.

Staff Reporter


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