17 November 2015

Open letter on the necessity of passing the Legislation on Domestic Violence Prevention in Belarus based on gender equality principles and international standards.

dvWe, representatives of women’s non-profit organizations with extensive practical experience in domestic violence prevention and rendering assistance to women-survivors and their children in Belarus,

  • Public Association  «Belarusian Young Women’s Christian Association»,
  • International Public Association «Gender Perspectives»,
  • Public Association  «Mogilev Women’s Centre for Support and Self-Education» (Mogilev),
  • Borisov Women’s Social Public Association “Province (Borisov),
  • Public Association “Radislava (Minsk),

welcome the contribution of governmental bodies, international agencies and non-profit organizations into development of the national system of addressing domestic violence, and in drafting the Law on Domestic Violence Prevention, in particular. We believe that this specific legislation will be adopted in the near future, and the Republic of Belarus will join more than 120 countries in the world that regard domestic violence a crime.  

Having said that, we express our concern that during the process of drafting such a law there appears to be a risk of ignoring the guiding principles for the effective legislation in sphere of domestic violence prevention.

As with any social phenomenon domestic violence can be viewed through different lenses – as a criminological problem, an issue of non-violent communication, as a public safety concern, a human rights issue, a problem of psychological culture. However, the experience of most UN member countries in implementation of the effective policy in the sphere of domestic violence prevention is guided above all by the gender equality principles, which do not allow to overlook the evidence-based facts that women all over the world are disproportionally affected by (male) violence in the family. The results of international studies on domestic violence prevalence suggest strong correlation between gender inequality, a woman’s status in society and the level of domestic violence.

In this regard we express our fundamental objection to the proposals of the Commission on women’s rights of the RPA “Legal Initiative proclaimed at the international seminar “Exchange of leading experience and best practices in the sphere of combating trafficking in human beings: domestic violence as the root cause, September 22-23, 2015 to introduce into the draft Law on Domestic Violence Prevention the approach based on victim mentality (victimisation).

Introducing victim mentality approach for treating domestic violence survivors into the draft Law poses the following threats:

  1. Introducing the liability for victim-like “provocative behavior on behalf of domestic violence victim/survivor will lead to diminishing a perpetrator’s responsibility for his criminal actions and denial of his guilt. Victim-like behavior is not the cause of domestic violence but is its consequence, a result of long-term, deliberate and continuous violent acts inflicted by a perpetrator, which result in a victim/survivor losing her human dignity, developing the feelings of fear, guilt and shame, and a lack of internal resources to seek support.
  2. Prevention of victim-like “provocative behavior in the form of correctional programmes imposed as mandatory for domestic violence survivors/victims, will negatively affect the current modest, but positive dynamics of identifying such cases of domestic violence, survivors will stop seeking help, the number of offences and domestic violence crimes will increase.
  3. Taking into account the current lack of services for domestic violence survivors and correctional programmes for perpetrators, it is counterproductive and meaningless to allocate state budget and other financial resources for prevention of victim-like behavior by educating professional groups, establishing correctional centers for victims and subsequently monitoring the impact of such activities.
  4. Exercising this approach will undermine the progress achieved as a result of long-term and multilateral process of development of the national system for domestic violence prevention. The international analysis suggests that none of the countries with the legislation against domestic violence employs legal responsibility for “provoking violence.
  5. Introducing provisions on victim-like “provocative survivor’s behavior into the draft Law on Domestic Violence Prevention will institutionalize threats mentioned above. Moreover, it will contradict to the international obligations of Belarus related to the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, as well as will make it impossible to join the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.

We express our confidence that the draft Law on Domestic Violence Prevention will contain progressive standards extending protection to domestic violence survivors and enabling the principle of punitive actions against perpetrators.

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