Other Important Legislative Provisions for Assistance to Complainants/Survivors

Last Updated June, 2010

Legislation should require a free, 24-hour hotline that is accessible from anywhere in the country and staffed by persons trained in domestic violence issues.  See: Crisis Centers and Hotlines, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights. For example, the Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers Association provides a hotline and email address for women to contact for help. 

Legislation should mandate a shelter/safe space for every 10,000 members of the population, located in both rural and urban areas, which can accommodate complainants/survivors and their children for emergency stays and which will help them to find a refuge for longer stays. See: UN Handbook, 3.6.1; and Shelters and Safehouses, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights. 

Legislation should require long-term housing assistance for complainant/survivors as they work to attain economic independence from the perpetrator.

Laws should also prohibit the perpetrator from dispossessing or illegally evicting the wife from the home.

Promising Practice: Article 19(1) of India’s Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 authorizes the magistrate to restrain the respondent from “dispossessing or in any other manner disturbing the possession of the aggrieved person from the shared household, whether or not the respondent has a legal or equitable interest in the shared household.” (Article 19(1)(a)). Article 19(1)(f) authorizes the magistrate to direct a respondent to “secure same level of alternative accommodation for the aggrieved person as enjoyed by her in the shared household or to pay rent for the same, if the circumstances so require.” Notably, while Article 19(1)(b) authorizes the magistrate to order the respondent to leave the household, the article states that this order may not be passed against a woman. 

Promising practice:  Title VI of the Violence Against Women Act (Reauthorized in 2005), United States (hereinafter VAWA, USA) provides that a complainant/survivor cannot be evicted from public housing because there have been incidents of domestic violence at her residence.  Further, the complainant/survivor may not be denied public housing assistance due to domestic violence, her landlord may not claim that domestic violence incidents constitute “good cause” to terminate her lease, and the lease itself may be divided so that the joint tenant perpetrator may be evicted and the complainant/survivor tenant may retain possession of the lease. A complainant/survivor may also change jurisdictions within the public housing program to protect the health and safety of herself and her family, without violating the terms of the lease.  This law protects complainant/survivors when one incident of domestic violence, dating violence, or stalking occurs against the complainant/survivor.  However, if the landlord demonstrates that there is an actual or imminent threat to other tenants or to those employed at the property, then the complainant/survivor’s tenancy may be terminated. 42 U.S.C. §1437

Legislation should mandate a crisis centre for every 50,000 population, with trained staff to provide support, legal advice, and crisis intervention counseling for all complainants/survivors, including specialized services for particular groups such as immigrants.  See: UN Handbook, 3.6.1; and Crisis Centers and Hotlines, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights. 

Legislation should mandate access to free-of-charge health care for immediate injuries and long-term care including sexual and reproductive health care, emergency contraception and HIV prophylaxis in cases of rape, and burn-related injuries. This health care should be accessible to all, including minors and without requiring the consent of any third party. 

For example, the law of Brazil contains the following provision: 

The assistance to the woman in a situation of domestic and family violence will include access to benefits resulting from scientific and technological development, including emergency contraception services, prophylaxis of Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) and of the Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and other necessary and appropriate medical procedures in the cases of sexual violence. Chapter 2, Article 9, Paragraph 3 

Legislation should mandate protocols and training for health care providers, who may be the first responders to domestic violence. Careful documentation of a complainant/survivor’s injuries will assist a complainant/survivor in obtaining redress through the legal system. In countries with mandatory reporting laws, legislation should require mandatory reporters to provide a full explanation of laws and policies to the survivor when a report is required.

Laws should mandate medical officials to report any case of grievous bodily harm in cases they suspect are the result of fire, kerosene oil or other stove implement to the police. See: Good Practices in Legislation on “Harmful Practices” against Women, Report of the Expert Group Meeting, UN Division for the Advance of Women, 26 to 29 Mary 2009, Section 3.3.5.2.

Promising Practice: Section 31 of the law of Philippines requires health care providers, therapists, and counselors who know or suspect that abuse has occurred to record the victim’s observations and the circumstances of the visit, properly document all physical, emotional, and psychological injuries, provide a free medical certificate concerning the exam, and to retain the medical records for the victim.  They must also provide the victim with “immediate and adequate” notice of their rights and remedies under Philippine law, and the services which are available to them. 

The Noor Al Hussein Foundation’s Institute of Family Health (IFH) has developed a “Training Manual for Private Health Care Providers in Management of Victims of Violence against Women.”  The manual provides information on detection, diagnosis, and referral of victims to support services.  According to the IFH, the guide is the first of its kind in the region to be available in Arabic and is already being used by medical professionals at nine private hospitals in Jordan. 

See also: Role of Health Care Providers, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights; Confidentiality and Support, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights; Screening and Referral, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights; Documentation and Reporting, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights; and Creating a Health Care Response, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights. 

Aid, including shelter, clothing and food, should also be provided for the children of complainant/survivors. See: UN Handbook, 3.6.1.

Legislation should include provisions which provide for restitution or compensation to the complainant/survivor either through the criminal proceedings or through a separate tort law.  See:  UN Handbook 3.11.5. For example, in addition to requiring the perpetrator secure similar accommodation or pay rent for a domestic violence victim, the Indian domestic violence law also authorizes a magistrate to order the perpetrator to pay relief for harm suffered by the victim and any child, including loss of earnings, medical expenses, destruction or loss of property and maintenance (Article 20(1)).

Claims for restitution of dowry or other property should not require that such dowry be registered. For example, India’s Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Rules, 2006 authorizes a Protection Officer, by Magistrate order, to restore possession of personal effects and the shared residence to the aggrieved person (Article 10(c)), as well as investigate and file a report on assets and bank accounts (Article 10(b)). The Dowry Prohibition Act establishes Dowry Prohibition Officers to prevent dowry exchanges and demands, collect evidence needed for prosecution of offenses under the act, and carry out additional tasks.

The law of Malaysia states that a victim of domestic violence is entitled to compensation in the court’s discretion: 

Where a victim of domestic violence suffers personal injuries or damage to property or financial loss as a result of the domestic violence, the court hearing a claim for compensation may award such compensation in respect of the injury or damage or loss as it deems just and reasonable.

             (2) The court hearing a claim for such compensation may take into account—

(a) the pain and suffering of the victim, and the nature and extent of the physical or mental injury suffered ;

(b) the cost of medical treatment for such injuries;

(c) any loss of earnings arising therefrom;

(d) the amount or value of the property taken or destroyed or damaged;

(e) necessary and reasonable expenses incurred by or on behalf of the victim when the victim is compelled to separate or be separated from the

defendant due to the domestic violence, such as—

(i) lodging expenses to be contributed to a safe place or shelter;

(ii) transport and moving expenses;

(iii) the expenses required in setting up a separate household which, subject to subsection (3), may include amounts representing such housing loan payments or rental payments or part thereof, in respect of the shared residence, or alternative residence, as the case may be, for such period as the court considers just and reasonably necessary. (Part III,10)

In legislation or compensation provisions, drafters should consider expanding the “damage to property or financial loss as a result of the domestic violence” to include financial loss as a result of extortion or dowry demands.