Last year, you couldn’t go without hearing about a concept for Law Against Domestic Violence and how the Belarusian president had axed it, dismissing it as “nonsense” and “absurd”. We decided to recall how much effort many different people had put into the Law so it could see the light of day and help turn around the situation in many families.
102 line, (our counterpart to 911), receives around 150 000 calls about domestic disturbances every year. 2 000 crimes are committed inside the families yearly, and 50 000 abusers are brought to administrative action. Many victims lack the necessary protection in most of cases related to domestic violence.
Belarus doesn’t have a special law for preventing domestic violence, therefore it’s very hard to hold the aggressors accountable. Preventing violence is almost impossible. The government thinks it’s best not to get involved in family troubles and considers domestic abuse an issue of “personal life”.
Meanwhile, international legal cases show government regulation can help greatly: cases of inner-family violence decreases 20-40%. These laws work superbly in 127 countries all around the world, including Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Kazakhstan, and more. Interestingly enough, the only two countries without have these laws among the former Soviet states are Belarus and Russia.
34mag presents a detailed timeline that traces the main events on the road to common sense and mutual respect finally winning. Let’s hope for the best.
First steps for preparing a law that will protect the victims of domestic violence (emotional and physical) are made. But it ends in a fiasco. Theme is marginalized, and its representation in the public eye is almost unseen.
During the year, women who have suffered the violence create an NGO to help other women suffering the same situation. They name it “Radzislava”. Besides social-psychological and legal help, “Radzislava” also gives the victims a chance to move away from their abusers into a shelter apartment for some time – for free.
A campaign named “16 Days of Active Actions against Violence towards Women in Relationships” takes place for the first time in Belarus. Movie theatre “Pioneer” screens movies dedicated to domestic violence, while an exhibition “Room of Violence” is held in another cinema, “Belarus”. It’s coordinated by the organization “Belarusian Association of Young Christian Women.”
November 25 isn’t chosen by random: it’s International Day of Fighting to Liquidate Domestic Violence towards Women in Relationships.
Belarusian MIA initiates a republican campaign “Home without Violence” in order to attract the public eye to the problem. Campaigns are to be held in April yearly. This forces the problem to appear both offline and online more often. Academic institutions and labor forces start having lectures on the topic while the police pay preventive visits to fans of throwing a punch or two.
Organization “Gender Perspectives” starts a nationwide hotline for victims of domestic violence: 8-801-100-8-801. More than 11 000 have used it since.
You can get an anonymous and confidential consultation from a qualified psychologist, a social worker or a lawyer. Hotline responds from 8 AM to 8 PM daily.
IPO “Gender Perspectives” becomes a part of European organization WAVE (Women against Violence in Europe). From that moment on “Gender Perspectives” represents WAVE in Belarus. They collect data on violence against Belarusian women and inform the public about the issue. Detailed research and data on the situation with concrete numbers and facts are an important step.
Belarusian law for preventing wrongdoings comes into effect. A separate block is dedicated to domestic violence. MIA considers it to be “a first step to meet international standards, passing a direct law (that many countries already have) to fight domestic violence.”
MIA initiates creation of the Law Against Domestic Violence. It also admits the increase in domestic murders. According to Ministry’s data, a third of crimes is committed in a relation to a family member. Without doubt, Belarus is desperately in need of a law to fight the problem head on.
The UN fund (UNFPA) together with belarusian governmental bodies and Swedish Embassy to organize a documentary play performance “Seven”. The play is based on an interview of women that went through domestic violence. It premiered in New York in 2008.
Actors of the play are a team of government officials: presidential aide Kirill Rudy, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs Alyona Kupchyna, Deputy Minister of Labor Aliaksandr Rumak, Swedish ambassador Martin Oberg, representatives of Ministry of Health, MIA, Ministry of Education.
Performance of the play will take place throughout 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Belarus participates in an international dance flashmob against domestic violence called “One Billion Rising”. Female activists from Minsk will go on to hold it in 2017 and 2018.
NGO “Radzislava” initiates a series of practical courses on self-defence and Wen-Do assertiveness for girls and women of Belarus.
The Wen-Do concept was created in the early 70s in Canada. Its main goal is to help women feel more worthy and give them a chance to fight violence in its many manifestations.
The first interactive map of gender violence towards women goes online, called “Map of Violence”. From now on each female Belarusian who has faced violence around her city can leave a notification to issue a warning about the area.
A task team for adjusting different aspects of the “anti-violence law” is assembled. It includes governmental representatives: MIA, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Prosecutor-General’s Office, and The Supreme Court. There are representatives for local NGOs and international organizations that work with domestic violence.
“Center for Family & Kids” alongside a charity organization “Baby Story” joins the “16 Days without Violence” campaign and holds a thematic event called #tellafriend. Thanks to it, women can share their stories about domestic violence.
MIA states: a draft for the Law Against Domestic Violence is to be created.
For the term “domestic violence” to include not only physical, psychological and sexual types of violence, but also economical one
Not only family members that live together should be held responsible, but also ex-husbands and cohabitants, as well as grown-up children that live separately but are violent towards their parents
Each family member should be considered equal in his or her rights
Correctional programs for domestic abusers should be established
Belarusian Track-and-Field Federation and the United Nations Fund for Population Activities hold the “Beauty Run” race as a part of a campaign against domestic violence. Opinion leaders that took part in the event included British ambassador Fionna Gibb and muay thai champion Maria Valent.
“Beauty Runs” were held before, but then it was about “spring, beauty and the weaker sex”. It’s more or less the same in 2018, but now it has additional social message.
An international movie festival on the topic of domestic violence is held as a part of the awareness campaign “Speak up! Stop Domestic Violence!”. It includes: “Thrown Out from the Nest” (Latvia, 2016), “In Bed with the Enemy” (USA, 1991), “Stranger” (Germany, 2010), and more.
MIA presents a concept for Law Against Domestic Violence to the public eye. It is reported that the draft has been cleared with all interested ministries and departments and has been been passed to the Council of Ministers.
A press conference for the concept is held, with colonel Sergey Krasoutski speaking for MIA. Among other things, he points to the fact that the public is already part of the conversation, as the Ministry receives letters concerning the problem. “In these letters people often accuse us of not trying to change the family values. They feel like the concept of a family is being undermined. But once again, I want to say that this law’s aim is to strengthen the traditional family relationship for Belarusians. <...> People try to instill certain values based on religion. That somebody in the family must be a leader, the some may be violent and abuse other people in the family. I think that is inappropriate for our country and our families”.
The church arrives to the scene. Archbishop Tadeush Kandrusevich criticizes. The way he sees it, the concept goes against national, cultural and also spiritual traditions of Belarusian people. “A far-fetched term ‘economical violence’ is aimed to destroy the family hierarchy once and for all, to devalue parents being ready to be providers and teachers for their children and, generally speaking, to become parents in the first place”.
He calls out to Catholics, disciples of other faiths and people of “good will” to not be indifferent and prays to god to “save the people from bad influence of gender equality.”
“Prolifers” come into play. Сoordinating Advisory Board of Public Profamily Forces start to get signatures and ask the president to look at a “dreadful” concept. “Prolifers” think the preventive measures MIA use today are more than enough. And the increase in the level of domestic violence is connected to the influence of mass culture that “has cut a centuries-long thread of family traditions”. Activists argue that families can solve problems on their own, while the law would “degrade the family institute” and lead to “devaluation of moral and spiritual values.”
Next wake-up call: head of Standing Committee of House of Representatives for Education, Culture and Science Igor Marzalyuk claims that the concept seemingly contradicts “slavic values”.
In his speech he addresses the main issues that the law opposition has: “The concept is incredibly unbalanced in terms of male and female responsibilities, because the aggressor and abuser, just as in European countries, is always the man. <...> For whatever reason parents are always seen as abusers that make their kids suffer. And most importantly, we are presented with a situation in which domestic violence cases will be moved out from administrative and criminal litigation. Litigation is the only way you can legally get to know what really happened.”
Minsk hold an international forum called “Domestic Violence in the Republic of Belarus: regulation troubles”. Participants discuss aspects of the future Law Against Domestic Violence.
An actual “black Friday” for anyone involved with the matter. President Aliaksandr Lukashenka blatantly criticizes the concept for the Law Against Domestic Violence. His speech demolishes many years of hard work put in by government officials and activists. He says “Somewhere someone mentioned that whole “against domestic violence” thing. It’s a trending phrase in the Western world. Soon they won’t have any families: a gay man marries another man or gets married to him. There’s no one to give birth to kids. And yet we are trying to borrow some moral family code from them.” And added that police forces shouldn’t be working on legislating laws, as it’s a prerogative of the government, Presidential Administration and NGOs.
That same day, activists Svetlana Gatalskaya and Marysha Korzh create a Facebook page called “March On, Baby” to push for the rejected concept. After 48 hours, about 1700 both female and male Belarusians join it.
“March On, Baby” activists hold an open briefing. Around 100 people attend, and many more watch the livestream. This is the first gathering of the supporters of the Law Against Domestic Violence.
MIA lets go of creating a separate concept for the Law Against Domestic Violence. They plan only to correct the laws currently in effect in Belarus.
MIA representative Ales’ Karazey says the concept was never intended to do any harm to the family institute, never aimed to change the meaning of family, marriage and family relations, and didn’t prohibit anyone from raising their children and had nothing in common with ‘juvenile justice’. But ‘public response and opinions of religious organizations’ played its part.”
Minsk art gallery “Ў” holds an exhibition called “Conservative Values”. It consists of photo and video projects, and a discussion called “Is There Life after Conservative Values?”, as well as a release of a brochure called “Cooperation without Injuries: How to Safely Cover Domestic Violence Crimes towards Women in Relationships in the Media?”.
The “March On, Baby” team begin collecting signatures for a petition created to motivate the legislation of the Law Against Domestic Violence. It will be addressed to governing bodies that can act on the situation. You can add your vote to the growing list of 2645 people.
To be continued...