Counteracting Domestic Violence in Belarus
Putting an end to violence against women is not limited to campaigns: broad range activities are carried out in Belarus for counteracting domestic violence. Interagency working groups on gender equality promotion are being established in Brest, Kobrin and Kamenets.
Working groups are composed of the representatives of the establishments of the interior, public health, social welfare territorial centres, the Bar and non-government associations. International experts of the UN Population Fund have shared their experience with the working groups. A report by the Albanian expert Monika Kocaqi “Initial Assessment of Preventing and combating domestic violence in Belarus” was published for the definition of the problem and determination of working areas. “An Overview of International Experiences and Best Practices in 5 Countries (Austria, Ukraine, UK, Israel and Kazakhstan) on Selected Aspects of Addressing Domestic Violence” was prepared by an Austrian expert Julia Girardi.
Legislative basis in the sphere of domestic violence prevention and counteracting has improved. Measures on domestic violence prevention are stipulated in the Law of the Republic of Belarus “On Basic Activities Aimed at Offence Prevention” as of 10 November 2008. Presently, the system puts the main emphasis on prosecution against the fact of violence, with no provisioning of effective and efficient prevention and preclusion of domestic violence case. In this respect the Ministry of Internal Affairs has initiated and forwarded for the consideration by the Parliament a new draft Law “On Basic Activities Aimed at Offence Prevention”. The document proposes introduction of new mechanisms of domestic violence prevention and a broader range of enforcement measures against assailants in domestic violence situation.
Psychological and legal assistance and social follow-up to domestic violence victims are provided in the territorial social welfare centres (hereinafter referred to as the Centres). Such establishments function in each administrative centre in Belarus. Totally, there are 149 Centres and within their structure there are divisions of social adaptation and rehabilitation (133), city centre of social assistance to families and children (1), city centre of social services to families and children (1) and “crisis rooms” (47). 146 Centres are equipped with hot telephone lines.
In accordance with the Model Provisions on social welfare centre, approved by the Resolution No. 114 of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection as of 17 September 114, within the Centres’ structure there shall be divisions of social adaptation and rehabilitation.
They are established for assisting the citizens, who have found themselves in difficult life circumstances, and those, who have suffered psycho-physical coercion, or have become victims of trafficking in human beings, criminal actions or domestic violence.
In order to help individuals in crisis state (dangerous for health and life, in conflict with other family members subject to psycho-physical violence, or victims of trafficking in human beings or criminal actions) “crisis rooms” are set up in the divisions of social adaptation and rehabilitation.
A “crisis room” is a specially equipped premises in the Centre with municipal/domestic services (preferably with a separate entrance), which might be provided - whenever necessary – to individuals in crisis state. Victims may stay in those rooms for the period of up to ten days and even longer, if Centre administration gives consent thereto.
Since August 2012, free hot line 8-801-100-8-801 has been provided to domestic violence victims in Belarus. Telephone line was opened in the premises of the “Gender Perspectives” international public association within the international technical assistance project under the name “Developing national capacity to counteract domestic violence in the Republic of Belarus”. Calls to the hot line are free.
One can call from a conventional phone from any place in Belarus and there are intentions on involving mobile operators, too. The line functions from 8:00 A.M to 8:00 P.M. On Tuesdays and Saturdays counselling is provided by a lawyer and on all other days by a psychologist.
All counsellors of the hot line for domestic violence victims have got profound training and possess both psychological and legal knowledge.
Belarusian Young Christian Women Association has rendered informational and psychological assistance both to violence victims and assailants. Primary counselling over the phone is provided at (+375 33) 603-20-32 from 9:00 A.M to 6:00 P.M., excluding weekends.
An asylum for domestic violence victims has been in operation in Lida and sponsored by the Orthodox sisterhood of the Belarusian Orthodox Church in honour of Saint Euphrosyne, Reverend Mother of Polotsk. More detailed information can be found at www.sestra.by. Violence victims’ asylum is being established in Bobruisk.
Presently, they include three types of offence, if they have been committed against family members or close relatives, particularly, outrage, light bodily injuries, which have not resulted in the decay of health, and disorderly conduct, - elaborated Aleh Karazei.
Disorderly conduct has been the most ambiguous offence. If domestic violence takes place inside the house (especially in a detached house) and there are no witnesses, there is no violation of public order. In some cases the Courts stop proceedings because there is no violation of public order as the determining feature of hooliganism/disorderly conduct. Therefore, the work has also been going along in other direction, i.e. a draft Law “On Amendments and Addenda to the Code of the Republic of Belarus on Administrative Offence and Code of Execution Procedure of the Republic of Belarus on Administrative Offence”.
We propose making an offence such coercive actions as beating and causing psychological and physical suffering. Currently, the Article 154 of the Criminal Code stipulates liability for torturing. Torturing is defined as systematic causing of blows and specific psychological and physical sufferings, resulting in excruciation. However, there is no responsibility for one-off causing of blows and psychological and physical suffering. We hope that there will be an elaboration on that.
The other reason for filing is committing an act with the features of a crime (Articles of the Criminal Code, stipulating liability for causing different classes of bodily injuries, murder, torturing, causing light bodily injuries and threatening with murder, which have been committed against close relatives or family members), when the cases were either not opened or opened based on the so-called non-exonerative grounds, i.e. the amnesty was granted, or a criminal case was related to the category of suits, which shall be commenced exclusively against the petition of the victim. Those citizens will be filed and the work with them will be carried out within the framework of preventive registration.
Such measure as a barring order will be an innovation for the Belarusian Legislation in the sphere of family/household regulation, - emphasised Aleh Karazei.
The Law will include a provision, stipulating an opportunity for internal affairs’ establishments of issuing barring orders with consent thereto of the prosecutor. They will oblige the person, who has conducted an act of domestic violence and been subject to preventive registration, to refrain from violence and take some actions in compliance with the order. Such provision has been effective in some European countries, particularly, in Kazakhstan, Moldova and Ukraine. There is no such provision in Russia and we hope that we will get it and the outcome from the innovations, i.e. barring orders will be positive.
A barring order towards the person who has committed an act of domestic violence shall be regulated by the Article 27. According to it, committing acts of domestic violence, obtaining information about the location of the victim and her/his children, visiting the victim in her/his temporary asylum, e.g. in an anti-crisis room, communicating (including telephone communications) with the victim and her/his children and visiting the places of her/his children places of work and studies shall be prohibited. Those measures shall be effective for the term up to thirty (30) days but may be terminated against victim’s petition thereabout.
Thus, the new Law intends criminal aggression reflection at earlier stages of the conflict and application of multiagency approach to consideration of domestic violence problem (through interaction of social services and other agencies-stakeholders). Much attention in the new wording is focused on education/training of conflict participants. As expected, the implementation of all those measures will result in more efficient solution of domestic violence problem.