Consultative Meeting: Implementation of Domestic Violence Prevention Law – Advantages and Challenges

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Organization providing support to women with disabilities …IZ KRUGA – VOJVODINA, in cooperation with the Autonomous Women’s Center from Belgrade, organized a consultative meeting on implementation of the Domestic Violence Prevention Law to discuss its advantages and challenges eight months after it has entered into force. The meeting was held on 2 March at the Blue Hall of the City of Novi Sad local assembly building. It was organized within the frame of the Women’s Dimension of EU Accession – Women’s Human Rights in Documents on EU Accession implemented with the support of Kvinna till Kvinna. The moderator fot he meeting was Ivana Zelić, the Coordinator of the SOS Service for Women with Disabilities with the … IZ KRUGA – VOJVODINA organization. The speakers were Vanja Macanović, the lawyer of the Autonomous Women’s Center, Daliborka Vojvodić Tomović, Coordinator of the Domestic Violence Prevention Unit and Juvenile Delinquency Suppression Group with the Novi Sad Police Department, as well as Ivana Perić, a psychologist of the SOS Women’s Center from Novi Sad.

Ivana Zelić: Implementation of the Domestic Violence Prevention Law started in June 2017. It brought about a series of innovations to Serbian legislation by introducing emergency protection measures against domestic violence. Additionally, it introduced risk assessment concerning the possibility of violence repetition, mandatory coordination and cooperation of all relevant services, as well as recordkeeping of domestic violence cases in accordance with the provisions of the Council of Europe Convention on Prevention and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic violence. There are still some unanswered questions, yet the statistics acts as a daily warning. According to the data of the Women against Violence Network, 26 women lost their lives to domestic or partnership violence last year, while this year the count is already nine.

Vanja Macanović: The number of individual victims’ protection plans is disproportionately smaller than the number of emergency measures ordered by the authorities. Welfare centers fail to keep up with the pace of other authorities’ response, whereas time for initial planning and protective measures is lost when discussion of emergency cases are delayed for the next meeting of the Coordination and Cooperation Group. Cases enter the welfare system from the moment emergency measures get ordered, while the welfare centers get no proper instruction for their further handling. It is evident that relevant institution are still not skilled enough in cooperation (information and data sharing), resulting in various queries. Special attention is required in cases of ordering emergency protection measures. It often happens that they are ordered to both sides, yet the documentation proves they have been copy-pasted from the order protecting the female victim into the order of the suspected male perpetrator of violence, without prior investigation and explication of the circumstances due to which a woman has also been ordered compliance with an emergency protection measure.

Daliborka Vojvodić Tomović: Statistics indicate the operation and information of relevant services has improved, not that the incidence of domestic violence has increased. The level of women’s awareness has been increased, so they report it more often. It is more often reported in smaller settlements around towns that in town proper. The number of third persons and institutions reporting it has also been increased, aka not only primary and secondary victims are reporting it. In 75.3 percent of these cases, the victims are women aged 31-40. Should children witness violence, they have no victim’s status in a criminal charge. In 90 percent of the cases domestic violence equals partnership violence. Devising instructions for implementation of the Law by the institutions would improve and equalize their practice.

Ivana Perić: Women are in need of legal representation, while providing a systemic and continuous support remains the primary challenge. This year, a woman has been killed every six days, indicating that the Law has not devised an efficient support system for women. A practical problem is also wrong assessment, which is a basis for providing support and which can cause more damage than good in such cases. Women are often deemed as having diminished parental capacity, which is an expected consequence of violence, and which works for the violators’ benefit. Due to an inadequate way of providing support to women, they often give up and return into the violence cycle. They also get (counter) accused and they keep seeing their violators during various proceedings, which is secondary victimization. The proceedings strictly adhere to what a woman has said (e.g. violence denial), instead of considering the context in which she has said it or the reasons for her claim. Professionals must know how to assess indicators and how to empower women, instead of implying that she was the cause of or contributor to violence. Women need to prove that they are victims of violence, namely trauma, which is absurd.

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