'Get tough on control-freak spouses'
Cruel and controlling behaviour by a spouse would be a criminal offence in the UK if proposals by Home Secretary Theresa May for the closing of loopholes in existing legislation were accepted.
The new legislation would apply equally to men being targeted by women, as research shows that one in six men in the UK is a victim of domestic abuse. The number of woman suffering domestic abuse is double that.
May is canvassing the views of the public from today, asking if the law should be strengthened to better protect victims by specifying that abuse can be emotional and psychological as well as physical.
"Domestic abuse is a brutal reality for thousands of victims up and down the UK whose lives are shattered by the people closest to them," May said. "I want perpetrators to be in no doubt that their cruel and controlling behaviour is criminal."
Lisa Vetten, of Wits University's Institute for Social and Economic Research, believes South African law in respect of domestic abuse offers better protection than legislation in the UK.
"Our act provides a wide and expansive definition of violence that includes economic and psychological abuse," she said. "We don't have to follow the UK."
The implementation of domestic violence legislation in this country is difficult because of the lack of training of police officers, she said.
There have been instances of police officers being asked to serve protection orders but being unable to do so because they have no vehicle or no petrol.
Officers at police stations have been known to berate women and refuse to open a docket when they complain of abuse, Vetten said.