Belarus: New Laws to Combat Domestic Violence Take Effect in April

New laws to prevent domestic violence and protect victims entered into force in Belarus on April 16. The new measures were approved as part of a larger crime prevention bill passed on January 15, 2014. The domestic violence provisions make a number of important updates to the Law on the Prevention of Offenses in Belarus, including a comprehensive definition of domestic violence and increased penalties for perpetrators of domestic violence. The new measures also allow victims to obtain protective orders against abusers. Police may now detain an offender after an incident of domestic violence for up to 72 hours and prohibit the perpetrator from entering the victim’s home for up to 30 days, even if the victim and the abuser share a residence. The updated law also emphasizes the importance of physical and psychological support services for victim-survivors of domestic violence.

 
According to a 2012 report by the National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus and the United Nations Children’s Fund, 11.8% of women across the country between the ages of 15 and 49 reported experiencing physical, psychological, economic, and/or sexual violence from a partner. However, it is likely this percentage represents only a portion of the women who actually experience violence, as women who have experienced domestic violence are often blamed and stigmatized. This stigmatization is reflected in the fact that of the women who reported having experienced domestic violence, 60% did not seek any form of help. Although the new domestic violence laws in Belarus will not immediately change the prevalence of violence and its surrounding societal norms, the laws represent an important first step in reducing the vulnerability of women in Belarus to abuse.
 
Compiled from:  Charnysh, Volha, Empowering Belarusian Women to Combat Domestic Violence, BelarusDigest (April 22, 2014); The New Law No. 122-Z “On the Framework for Prevention of Offenses Against the Law” to Become Effective from April 16, 2014, UN Population Fund in Belarus (January 22, 2014); Monitoring the Situation of Children and Women, National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus and the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (June 2013).