Sample National Domestic Violence Laws
last updated August 2013
Domestic violence may be addressed in the constitutions of states, in criminal codes, in family laws, in administrative provisions, in gender equality provisions, and many other contexts. It is critical that the principles of ensuring victim safety and offender accountability guide the drafting process of any new law or its amendments. And, while national laws may serve as useful models or resources, none should be transplanted into a different legal context without substantial consideration and adaptation.
Some incidences of domestic violence may be already addressed under aspects of a country’s criminal or administrative codes, such as criminal assault or hooliganism.  However, these legislative categories are often not appropriate for the kind of low-level, repetitive assaults that constitute domestic violence.  If the assault cannot easily be addressed by an existing code provision, police are often reluctant to take further action. In such situations, victims will be unlikely to report domestic abuse.  Offender impunity will increase, and the seriousness of the violence is likely to escalate.  If the authorities take the violence seriously only when it constitutes a grave injury to the victim, this is far too late to accomplish the goal of victim safety.
A domestic violence law can create civil remedies for victims of domestic violence, such as an Order for Protection, which may temporarily or permanently remove a violent perpetrator from the family home. Provisions in domestic violence laws should allocate funding for victim support and assistance, provide for temporary child custody and child support, the collection of statistical information, and other efforts to combat domestic violence.  Finally, the violation of an Order for Protection should be made an independent criminal offense.  The ability of the state to provide a serious consequence for the violation sends an important message that violence will not be tolerated by the community and ensures the accountability of the offender.
It is vital that a draft domestic violence law be analyzed to ensure that it will not have unintended negative effects on battered women and their families. Consultation with battered women and those who provide services to them is an essential part of this process. Circulating the draft domestic violence law as widely as possible to the groups that will be affected by the new law and the agencies that will be charged with implementing and enforcing the law can help identify any potential problems that might be caused by the law. Soliciting feedback from those who will enforce and implement the law also helps to build community support for the law. At the same time, it is important to lobby for adequate governmental support for implementing the domestic violence law.
Practical considerations may dictate whether the time is right for introduction of domestic violence legislation. The political climate may not support such legislation, or the criminal justice system may not be prepared to implement the reforms. In such cases, it may be more effective to address reforms through the implementation of policies and protocols.
For guidance on developing domestic violence legislation, please see the Drafting Laws on Domestic Violence section of this website and the 2010 United Nations Handbook for Legislation on Violence Against Women.[1]

[1] Division for the Advancement of Women, Handbook for Legislation on Violence Against Women (2010), accessed August 14, 2013,