Human rights in Ukraine 2011. XXII. DOMESTIC VIOLENCE — AS MANIFESTATION OF GENDER DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS
Violence is a reason why thousands of Ukrainian households are ruined. About 90% of those who suffer from domestic violence, according to the data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, are women. It is a violation of human rights and a gender-conditioned phenomenon; it violates the fundamental human right for life: more than 1,000 women in Ukraine annually die at hands of their family members. The number of more than 100,000 calls to police on cases of domestic violence is just the official statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the eleven months of 2011. This number demonstrates that the current governmental policy of prevention and counteraction to domestic violence is in need of optimization and improvement at all levels.
In 2010, the number of registered abusers was almost 92 thousand abusers, of them 84.2 were men. In the first six months of 2011, the number of registered abusers was 102.1 thousand; of them 94.4 thousand were men. Every year, the number of persons who are listed in the agencies of internal affairs registers as abusers for committing acts of domestic violence, is growing (Table1).
Number of men
Number of women
Total number of persons who are registered with the police for committing domestic violence
Due to the Law of Ukraine “On prevention of domestic violence”, which was adopted in 2001, the scope of the problem became visible, but the existent statistics is still just the tip of the iceberg. It was decided which governmental agencies were to be vested with responsibility to coordinate activities on counteraction to domestic violence. The social services and departments for family, children and youth started to work on its implementation. Several large-scale educational projects for various categories of specialists and informational campaigns (for instance, “Stay Human” and “Let’s Do It Together”) have been conducted. The analysis of the judicial practice was conducted. The correctional programs for persons who committed acts of domestic violence have been developed and now are being implemented. But these positive achievements are still far from enough for a person who suffers from domestic violence to get the proper protection, and for an abuser to bear the adequate responsibility. This is demonstrated by the rapidly growing number of calls to agencies of internal affairs and to the National Hotline for prevention violence and protection of children’s rights. Starting from November 2004 to December 2011, the National Hotline for prevention of violence and protection of children’s rights received 23,350 calls. During the year 2011 (in December the number of calls for the first 10 days was included here) 11,400 consultations were provided on the hotline.
Got registered during
Administrative protocols under Article 173-2
Data not available3
2011, 6 months
Data not available
To monitor how district police officers implement the provisions of the Law “On Prevention of Domestic Violence”, the survey was conducted in July–September, 2011: 294 police officers were surveyed in eight oblasts of Ukraine and in Simferopol (the Autonomous Republic of Crimea). This survey was not planned as a national-scale research; at the same time it gave grounds to make certain conclusions. District police officers come across cases of domestic violence in their districts rather often. A little more than 14% are informed of them from 10 to 20 times a month, more than 45% — from 5 to 10 times a month, and almost 40% of the surveyed — less than 5 times a month. This means that annual numbers would look like this: 14% have from 120 to 240 cases, 45% have from 60 to 120 cases, and 40% have less than 60 cases a year. If even the smallest of these numbers — less than 60 cases of violence a year — is multiplied by the number of districts (around 13,000), the total would be almost 780 thousand cases.
Based on these calculations, the average number of domestic violence cases per district police officer is 6.8 cases a month, or about 82 cases a year. If taken nation-wide, the estimate annual number of domestic violence cases is about 1,066,000. Obviously, these numbers are nothing but tentative calculations, but they are based on the actual data of the survey.
At the same time, the data of the sectoral statistics shows that the number of calls to agencies of internal affairs for cases of domestic violence is a little more than 100,000 a year. The difference is more than seven-fold. What, then, is happening to other cases? Are they not registered? Are they not registered as cases of domestic violence? Is there something else at play? The conclusion that can be made here is that the agencies of internal affairs register approximately 10% cases of domestic violence.
In 2010, the Ministry for Family, Youth and Sport changed the approaches to collection of statistical data and introduced the statistics of number of calls by gender. For instance, in 2010, 924 calls were made by children (the first six months of 2011 — 557 calls), 100,390 calls were made by women (during the first six months of 2011 — 56,184 calls); 8,938 calls were from men (the first six months of 2011 — 6,411 calls). During 2010, the amount of UAH 556,387.1 was allocated for funding of measures for prevention of domestic violence (for the first six months of 2011 this amount was UAH 242,090). In 2010, the regional databanks of families in crisis registered 8,593 families (during the first six months of 2011 — 3,953 families), of them 3,308 families receive social services at centers of social services for families, children and youth (in the first six months of 2011 — 734). In 2010, 387 families were referred to centers of social and psychological support (in the first six months of 2011 — 81 families).
According to the data of the State Department for adoption and protection of children’s rights, during the first six months of 2011 the child care services received calls about 888 children suffering from violence against them, of these children: 432 girls (22 children were suffering from sexual violence, 22 — from economic violence, 130 — from psychological violence, 258 — from physical violence); 456 boys (27 — from economic violence, 134 — from psychological violence, 259 — from physical violence).
The year 2011 showed some negative trends related to disruption of the already established mechanisms of prevention of violence due to the lingering administrative reform of December 2010, in the course of which these important spheres of the state department were lost. Most conclusions and recommendations made in the previous Report of human rights activist organizations concerning the state of observance of human rights (2009–2010) are still relevant and still waiting for implementation. The Presidential Decree only in April 2011 approved the statement on the Ministry of Social Policy, which was to take on the functions of the central responsible body of governmental authority in this sphere, and this happened only in November 2011. The situation with the oblast departments and rayon branches is still in limbo, what leads to the managerial chaos, loss of resources and achievements and, as a result, failure of the state to secure legal rights and interest of persons who suffer from domestic violence.
There are also issues related to drawbacks in the legislation in this sphere. For instance, as the monitoring of observance of the legislation conducted in 2011 demonstrated that a victim is not protected against domestic violence being committed against her or him, and abusers do not bear the adequate responsibility. Let’s list some of the major issues.
1. Definitions of terms (what constitutes a fundamental part of any law) in Article 1 of the Law “On Prevention of Domestic Violence” are in contradiction with the essence of the issue of domestic violence and with the international standards. Some of them are not harmonized with other legislative acts. For instance, people to be covered by the effect of the legislation on prevention of domestic violence are described by the notion “family members”, and this makes it impossible in practice to protect certain groups of persons to whom this notion does not refer but who still suffer from domestic violence and require help. This error of omission has to be addressed.
2. The Law “On Prevention of Domestic Violence” (Article 2) does not refer directly to the norms of international treaties, and this causes low effectiveness of application of the international standards in the sphere of counteraction to domestic violence at the level of enforcement.
3. The highest governmental authorities treat counteraction to domestic violence rather formally: the Action plan for the National campaign “Stop Violence!” for the period till 2015 was approved on December 1, 2010, by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, but in 2011 its implementation was not coordinated.
4. Besides lack of coherence between separate legislative acts, there is an issue with their practical application. For instance, during the cascade trainings for district police officers on the issues of counteraction to domestic violence within the framework of the EU-UNDP Equal Opportunities and Women’s Rights in Ukraine Program, it was discovered that district police officers had poor knowledge of legislative acts and rarely applied the provisions of the Law of Ukraine “On Prevention of Domestic Violence” in their practical activities. As conversations with the trainings participants showed, not all of them even have the text of this Law, or that of Order 3131/386 (2009). A vivid example of such unfamiliarity with the legislation is the information that official warnings to victims that victim-like behavior is impermissible are still issued despite elimination of this provision from the Law in 2009, what is confirmed by the letter as of June 30, 2011, No. 01-15/923 of the Department for Youth and Sport of Zakarpatska oblast state administration.
5. Whether the provisions of legislative acts are applied depends completely on whether those responsible for their implementation are informed of them. The monitoring showed a low legal discipline at different levels of power, because of what the instructions and internal documents can in practice overrule the laws, and lower ranks are not informed of amendments to the relevant legislation for years. What is lacking here is the system of constant education of officers of agencies of internal affairs, judges, and social workers about the effective provisions of the legislation in the sphere of combating domestic violence.
6. The funding of activity in the sphere of prevention of domestic violence and assistance to victims is virtually non-existent, what leads to non-observance of the provisions of the legislation. As a result, the number of complaints about inaction and actions of different governmental agencies is growing; these complaints are also shared with the National Hotline on prevention of violence and protection of children’s rights.
“I am 18, and I have problems with my stepfather, he drinks and starts fights all the time and nothing can be done about him, as his brother is a police officer so he is not afraid of anything. Tell me, what should I do? I started to develop hormonal dysregulations because of constant scandals” (15.04.2011, Rivnenska oblast).
“My son threw me out of my apartment. I own this apartment, he is just registered as living here, but he changed all the locks and refuses to let me in. I called the police and waited for them for a couple of hours to come, then the district officer came and told me that he couldn’t do anything, that I should take care of it by myself, and that he would not register my statement. What should I do in such situation?” (01.07.2011, Dnipropetrovska oblast).
“The district police officer told me that if I want them to register my statement of the fact of domestic violence, I need statements from two witnesses, and that I have to pay a fine for calling police” (19.07.2011, Sumska oblast)
7. It is not uncommon when police officers consider domestic violence to be nothing but a “family issue” and fail to perform the duties vested in them.
“My husband beat me. I was admitted to hospital with a concussion. He also commits psychological violence against children. My daughter filed two statements with the police, but they said they do not respond to family conflicts” (25.06.2011, Kyiv oblast).
“I am 91. I live with my daughter and my son-in-law. The son-in-law keeps beating me and bullying me. I called the police, but the police do not want to act because it is family issues. I called the prosecutor’s office but with no results” (22.07.2011, Kyiv).
“I am officially married to a woman who abuses alcohol. We are separated but we have a child. My wife doesn’t take care of the child properly, but when I take the child to live with me, my wife would come in the morning to my house drunk and start causing harm to the property: break the windows, tear down the fence. I called the child care services but they did not respond in any way. The police never came even once after my calls as they explained they are busy as they are already” (24.07.2011, oblast not specified).
From complaints to the National Hotline for prevention of domestic violence
and protection of children’s rights, La Strada-Ukraine Center
8. In the issues of protection of children from violence and cruel treatment, the Law “On Prevention of Domestic Violence” is not harmonized with the provisions of the Law “On Protection of Childhood”, which was adopted earlier.
9. The legislation does not specify clearly what governmental agencies exactly are responsible for prevention of domestic violence (Article 3 of the Law of Ukraine “On Prevention of Domestic Violence”), for instance, it is unclear whether it is educational agencies and institutions, or centers of social services for family, children and youth.
10. In 2011, during the first six months 2,494 persons were referred to the correctional programs (in 2010 — 4,965 persons, of whom only 302 persons completed the correctional programs). Of those who were referred to the programs during the first six months of 2011, 198 persons completed them. In Dnipropetrovska, Zakarpatska, Kirovogradska, Luganska, Poltavska, Rivnenska, Sumska, Ternopoliska, Khmelnytska, Chernivetska oblasts, persons who committed violence were not referred to correctional programs.
Table 3. Statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 2004 — the first six months of 2011)
Persons registered in the register of abusers as a preventative measure
The first six months, 2011
11. The Law “On Prevention of Domestic Violence” does not provide for obligatory establishment of crisis centers. It stipulates that such centers are established by local state administrations following the instruction from the specially authorized body of executive power in the issue of prevention of domestic violence based on the region’s social needs. At that, neither the law nor the existent enactments specifies how these needs of the region are to be determined. There is no information about any such instructions issued by the authorized body. It must be noted that crisis centers have been established and are now functioning still not in every region of Ukraine. But in the majority of the regions there are institutions that provide support to victims of domestic violence. Such institutions are funded both from oblast and local budgets and from international foundations. In 2011, no amendments were made to the Standard provisions on centers of social and psychological support, according to which temporary shelter may be provided only to persons who are no older than 35 and to persons (no age limitations specified) with underage children, whose registered residence is within the region, in which the shelter functions. The same is true for social mother and child centers. The problem of providing assistance to senior citizens who suffered from domestic violence or who are at risk of being victims of domestic violence hasn’t yet been addressed either.
Table 4. Statistics of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (2010 — the first six months of 2011)
Number of domestic violence victims who were referred to specialized institutions for rehabilitation in 2010
Number of persons, who committed domestic violence, and were referred to crisis centers for the correctional program
1 six months of 2011
12. The monitoring showed that centers for health and social rehabilitation of victims of domestic violence do not submit to the Ministry of Health Care of Ukraine information about the amounts of their work for generalization. At the same time, the letter from the department of health care of the city of Sevastopol said that during 7 years of existence of the center, with the staff of 10 workers, including an accompanier, not a single victim of domestic violence came there. At the same time, here are the numbers of those persons in Sevastopol who were registered by the police for committing physical domestic violence: in 2004 — 456, in 2005 — 584, in 2006 — 527, in 2007 — 625, in 2008 — 816, in 2009 — 895, in 2010 — 1,047. It would be rational to assume that the number of those who suffered from physical violence will not be less than that. What, then, does this mean, that victims of domestic violence are not being properly informed about the existence of the center and opportunities to get help or that this center exists only on paper?
13. In 2009–2011, a series of monitoring studies was conducted to research the judicial practice in cases connected to cruel treatment of children, violence against children and women and domestic violence per se [2; 3; 4]. Generalization of the information of these studies makes it possible to come to the following conclusions concerning peculiarities of prosecuting for crimes related to domestic violence:
A. Predominantly, when considering cases about crimes related to domestic violence that can be categorized as non-severe and of medium severity, the court relieves the accused from serving a sentence and puts them on probation with application of Article 75 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. This means the courts go for relatively milder punishments.
B. The courts very rarely come up with separate decrees encouraging social services or agencies of internal affairs to pay attention to the family, where domestic violence was committed, to prevent further domestic violence, to prevent a more severe crime, to protect the victim’s rights. Such separate decree can help a family to overcome the situation of violence, with the permission of the family members the social service can provide social support to them as a family in the crisis situation.
C. The judicial practice in Ukraine has almost no instances when the court decrees that the accused who abuses alcohol or drugs should go into rehabilitation as stipulated by Article 76 of the Criminal Code to get treated for his or her drug or alcohol addiction as a condition for their probation according to Article 75 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. If a person who committed a crime connected to domestic violence is a drug or an alcohol addict, what is confirmed by the medical documents, the court is entitled to oblige this person to go into rehabilitation to get treated for his or her drug or alcohol addiction if Article 75 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine is applied.
D. The court pays not enough attention to the history of domestic violence and does not consider the possibility that such violence could have been there for years and the committed crime is just an instance in the years-long abuse of the family. Taking into account that among other tasks, the criminal proceeding has to protect the rights and legal interests of persons who participate in it, the courts should abandon a formal approach when considering cases related to domestic violence and consider the risks for the life and health of victims.
E. There is a practice to proceed with cases related to domestic violence following the simplified procedure as by Article 299 of the Criminal Code of Process on inadvisability of evidence concerning actual circumstances of the case. This makes the process much quicker, no doubt, but in such a case the court may leave out important circumstances what in the future can cause violation of victims’ rights.
F. During court proceedings on cases related to sexual violence against children, the court often calls these children to the court room for interrogation, it is not uncommon that underage victims stay in the court room during the hearings, and such cases are being heard in open court hearings.
G. Another peculiarity of the cases related to domestic violence against adults is that a lot of those who were serving their time for committing domestic violence were released from prisons in 2009 because of the Law “On Amnesty” adopted by Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, which came to effect on December 26, 2008.
H. The monitoring of judicial examination of cases related to domestic violence following the procedure of civil legal proceedings was conducted in 2011 with the support from the Equal Opportunities and Women’s Rights in Ukraine Program, and this monitoring showed that domestic violence is one of the reasons of dissolution of marriages. In such cases in most cases it is women who are petitioners, but there are also cases related to domestic violence, where men are petitioners. In their statements of claim, women say that family life failed, “because the husband keeps drinking, and starting fights and scandals” or “because the husband committed physical violence and diminished human dignity of the petitioner”.
14. Monitoring of the database of the Unified governmental register of court decrees, which was conducted in August 2011, gave ground to a conclusion that there are no court cases on charging the persons who committed domestic violence to compensate the expenses for living expenses of the victim of domestic violence in specialized institutions for victims of domestic violence.
The lawyers of Kyiv women’s city center under Kyiv city state administration, tried to apply in their practice Article 14 of the Law. But in practice this article turned out to be impossible to apply.
The lawyers had the following questions:
What enactment clearly stipulates the mechanism on how a person that committed domestic violence is to be fined, for the benefit of the specialized institution for a victim of domestic violence?
Is there a judicial practice of examination of such category of cases?
Wouldn’t filing such a charge cause even more harm to the victim of domestic violence? As the risk here is that the fine charged will be paid not by the abuser but by the family.
15. Administrative penalties for perpetuating domestic violence are still ineffective, what was already pointed out in the previous reports.
Table 5. Kinds of imposed administrative penalties
(according to statistical reports of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine)
Administrative protocols drawn up under Article 173-2
Decrees of the court
16. An important reason to improve the national legislation is the fact that on November 7, 2011, Ukraine signed the Council of Europe Convention No. 210 on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, whose ratification requires significant legislative change.
Conclusions and recommendations
1. To use the conclusions and recommendations in the report “Human rights in Ukraine. 2009–2010”.
2. To create a working group in the Verkhovna Rada Committee on human rights, ethnic minorities and interethnic relations that would develop comprehensive amendments to the legislation to harmonize it with the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
3. To develop and adopt a separate program on prevention of domestic violence.
 The section was prepared by K. Levchenko — International Women’s Rights Center “La Strada-Ukraine” based on the monitoring of the state of implementation of the legislation in the sphere of prevention of domestic violence, which was performed by the working group consisting of the following experts: V.O. Bryzhyk, T.I. Bugayets, I.I. Dovgal, S.V. Gud, M.V. Yevsiukova, O.A. Kalashnuk, L.I. Kozub, L.G. Kovalchuk, O.O. Lazarenko, B.P. Lazorenko, K.B. Levchenko, M.M. Legenka, Yu.V. Nikolaychuk, O.V. Savenok, O.I. Suslova, A.V. Chygryn and others.
The results of the monitoring are presented in the edition: Monitoring fulfillment of the legislation of Ukraine concerning domestic violence. 2001–2011. — Kharkiv.: Human Rights Publisher, 2011. — 240 с.
 The Table was composed based on the statistical data of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.
 Starting from January 1, 2010, this kind of statistics is not collected anymore due to introduction of the reporting from No. 1-НС (Order of the Ministry of Internal Affairs No. 388 As of September 8, 2009 “On Approval of the Reporting Form No. 1-НС ‘Report on state of counteraction to domestic violence’ (quarterly)”.
 Within the framework of the Equal Opportunities and Women’s Rights in Ukraine Program, in 2009–2011 the All-Ukrainian educational program on the issues of prevention of domestic violence was introduced: 44 trainers were trained and then conducted more than 600 trainings with district police officers (about 60% of all district police officers).
 This limitation in providing a temporary shelter is conditioned by the necessity to provide funding for maintenance of such institutions that operate locally at the costs of the local budget allocated for programs addressing children, women and families.