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Violence in family: how to solve the problem on government and non-government levels

Nadiya Sherstiuk, Kyiv
One of the most urgent problems in Ukraine is now the problem of violence in family. Ukrainian and foreign human rights protectors, lawyers and psychologists share this opinion. Yet, this problem is not regarded as a serious one by representatives of the court system. The prosecutor’s office, for example, often refuses to start criminal proceedings concerning torture in family, even if the victim got serious traumas. However, recently the Law of Ukraine "On preventing violence in family" has come into effect.

Human right protectors and representatives of non-governmental women’s organizations regard the adoption of this law as san important step in the direction of solving this important problem. Yet, this law, in their opinion, in spite of its importance, has many drawbacks.

In 2000 the NGO "Minnesota protectors of human rights" conducted a complex investigation concerning the violence in family. Many of the women-respondents stated that violence in family is not limited with physical torture only, it includes also moral, psychological and emotional humiliation.

Although violence in family has become a subject of research and discussions in Ukraine only recently, this problem has managed to mix with many prejudices. For instance, until recently such violence was regarded as a private affair, so many crimes committed by husbands against their wives remained unknown. Besides, the opinion is common that often women provoke violence themselves, which results in beating or rape. Such a behavior named as victim one lies in the base of the Law "On preventing violence in family".

The human rights protection organization "Amnesty International" regards that in this respect the Law contradicts the norms of the international right. Natalya Dulneva, a coordinator of Ukrainian programs of "Amnesty International" worded such opinion:

"The Law in some respects contradicts the international right, since it includes the item concerning the victim behavior. The victim behavior is, in general, a legal term explaining why the victim was attacked. Yet, it may not be an argument to mitigate the attacker".

Women are often unwilling to make public the cases of violence in their families. In the opinion of human rights protectors, lawyers and psychologists, such reaction is connected with numerous social taboos.

According to the investigation of "Minnesota protectors of human rights", violence in family is widely spread in Ukraine and concerns women of all social layers. Lilya Guk, a coordinator of the program of preventing crisis situations at the Lviv regional center "Woman for woman", shares this opinion. "Every fourth woman among those, who phone to us, suffers from various kinds of violence in family ", she affirms. Ms. Guk stated: "Actually, violence over women has neither national, nor social, nor economic, not religious, nor professional, nor educational ties or barriers. It might happen in any family of any social or educational level. 59.5% of women, who suffer from violence in family have higher education".

According to lawyer Olena Kustova, a representative of the NGO "Winrock international", now the experiment is conducted in the framework of the program of preventing and fighting violence in family using Polish experience in this sphere. "In Poland the documents that register cases of intruding militia into family violence are called blue cards, we call them special cards. Such an experiment was conducted in Dnepropetrovsk in the first quarter of the current year. A similar experiment is being conducted in one district of Lviv. According to this experiment, the proportion of women-victims is 84%. The special blanks of protocols have been prepared, whose filling in by militia is simplified. The victim of family violence is also explained where she may turn beside militia".
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