The Advocates for Human Rights Comments on Romanian Domestic Violence Law
Friday, April 30, 2004 1:45 PM

Romanian Law to Prevent and Fight Against Domestic Violence
May 2003

Comments of The Advocates for Human Rights

The Romanian Law to Prevent and Fight Against Domestic Violence (hereinafter, the Law) includes positive changes in legislation with regard to domestic violence but also presents many obstacles to ensuring domestic violence victims' safety and offender accountability for violent crimes. Positive aspects of the law include the following:

  • The Law states that domestic violence encroaches on womens fundamental rights and freedoms. (Art. 2) 
  • The Law provides for the establishment of both public and private shelters along with social services for victims of domestic violence. (Art. 23)
  • The Law allows for public subsidies for private organizations that serve victims of violence and directs government ministries to conduct research and education on domestic violence. (Arts. 7, 17 and 18)
  • The Law allows courts to order that violent offenders leave the family home. (Art. 26)

The following provisions of the law present obstacles to ensuring the safety of domestic violence victims and the accountability of offenders for their violent crimes.

  1. The language of the Law frequently focuses on the protection and support of the family rather than the safety of domestic violence victims and the accountability of violent offenders. For example, the first sentence of the Law Chapter 1, Art. 1 (1) states that it is in the national interest to protect and support the family. Art. 8 (2) states that the objective of the agency charged with implementing the Law, the National Agency for Family Protection, is to support family values. While the goal of providing support to families is admirable, there are circumstances where the Law's focus on protecting the family may not serve the interests of a domestic violence victim seeking to escape a violent familial relationship. Experts involved in drafting model domestic violence legislation recognize the importance of laws which prioritize victim safety.  See the sections of this website entitled United Nations Framework for Model Legislation on Domestic Violence and United States Model Code on Domestic and Family Violence.
  2. The Law anticipates a great deal of state intervention in cases of domestic violence, independent of victims' wishes or requests and without the involvement of advocates who work with victims and can best represent their interests. For example, Art. 13 (1) requires that family social workers identify and keep account of the families where potential violent situations may occur and identify amiable settlement by maintaining contact with the persons herein. Provisions that authorize government representatives to independently make decisions about a domestic violence situation may in some cases interfere with safety and other interests of the victim. 
  3. The Law contemplates that victims of domestic violence need social rehabilitation. See Art. 8 (2) c and Art. 9 (1) j. In fact, many victims of domestic violence do not need psychiatric counseling or rehabilitation services. Rather, domestic violence victims need government agencies to focus resources on ensuring their safety through adequate provision of shelters and economic opportunities and ensuring offender accountability through adequate criminal laws and procedures. 
  4. The Law's reference to "conflicting parties" diminishes offender accountability for violent behavior and reflects an assumption that both parties are equally at fault for violence. (See Art. 16 c and e). 
  5. The Law's directive that state representatives counsel the conflicting parties to the purpose of mediation diminishes offender accountability for violent behavior and reflects an assumption that both parties are equally at fault for violence. Art. 16 (1) e. It also may further endanger victims of domestic violence since, if seen as an alternative to criminal prosecution, it may allow for violent offenders to avoid criminal prosecution and sanctions for their behavior. Finally, as discussed in the OFPs and Family Law Issues section of this website, mediation is based on an assumption that both parties in a relationship have equal power to negotiate. This is usually not the situation in domestic violence cases and mediation may actually present additional risk of danger to victims.
  6. The Law presents a risk that a domestic violence victim will be further victimized by the State by having her children taken from her. Art. 16 states that the state should report cases to institutions of child protection. This may unfairly penalize a victim of domestic violence and may also not be in the best interests of the child. For a further discussion of these issues, see the Role of Child Protection Services section of this website.
  7. The Law does not provide victims adequate access to shelters. Art. 23 (2) states that victims may be admitted to shelters only in emergency cases or with written confirmation of the family social worker. By requiring an independent evaluation of the situation, the Law presents obstacles to victims who have decided that they or their children are in danger. In most cases of domestic violence, it is the victim who is best able to evaluate the level and immediacy of danger presented by an offender. For more information on this issue, see the Safety Planning and Safehouses and Shelters sections of this website.