Latvia: Legislature Approves New Measures To Protect Victims of Domestic Violence

The Latvian Saiema recently approved new protective measures for victim-survivors of domestic abuse that greatly improve the legal response to domestic violence in Latvia.The new measures took effect on March 31, 2014 as part of a package of amendments to Latvia's Civil Procedure, Police and Criminal Codes passed by the Saiema in February. Latvia's new amendments include a broad definition of domestic violence and allow victims access to protective orders against abusers. Police will have the authority to issue those orders immediately. Changes to the criminal code make it a crime when perpetrators violate protective orders. Additionally, when victims are granted protective orders, perpetrators will be required to leave the victim's house, rather than the victim having to leave her home to seek shelter and safety. 

The UN Human Rights Committee in April noted the “absence of protection measures, in particular restraining orders” for victim-survivors of domestic violence in Latvia. The Latvian government acknowledged these gaps in its legal system and, with these new amendments, followed through on commitments made to the Committee to reduce the vulnerability of women to continued abuse. Latvian police have reported receiving an average of 13 calls each day regarding domestic violence, of which only approximately 3% result in criminal proceedings. 

Speaking about the new law, Iluta Lace with  The Resource Centre for Women MARTA states, “It is clear now that domestic violence is not a private matter, it is a crime.” MARTA  supports 200 to 300 women every year who have suffered from domestic violence. Lace says, “The challenge with the law is enforcement.  The police and courts now need information on how to implement the law.” 

Since 2011, The Advocates for Human Rights has assisted partners in Latvia with legal reform on domestic violence. In May, The Advocates will travel there, sponsored by the United States Embassy to train legal professionals in best practices to enforce the law. 

Compiled fromNew approach to combating domestic abuse:  Oppressors are to leave the house, not victims, Baltic News Network (February 13, 2014); UN Human Rights CommitteeConcluding observations on the third periodic report of Latvia, United Nations (April 11, 2014); UN Human Rights Committee, Replies of Latvia to the list of issuesUnited Nations (February 26, 2014); Law Protects Women And Children, MARTA (February 27, 2014).