Archive for the ‘Domestic Violence’ Category

The Fiji Women Crisis has recorded the highest number of domestic violence cases this year compared to the last five years.

According to the statistics provided by the Crisis Center their Suva Office dealt with a total of 882 cases this year compared to 760 cases last year and the most significant increase in reported cases was domestic violence which increased from 371 last year to 553 this year.

Deputy Co-ordinator, Edwina Kotoisuva said this is the highest number of recorded cases for domestic violence over the past five years and that while they believe more women are coming forward to report such crimes there is a possibility that the levels of violence are increasing.

Kotoisuva said while there has slight increase in rape and sexual harassment cases recorded at the center, there has been a decrease in what they called Other’s category due to the fact that women are able to access information and support.

Domestic violence among North Korean defector couples is much more serious than that among South Korean couples, according to the Gender Equality and Family Ministry, Tuesday.

The frequent violence in marriages is because of the patriarchal custom back in North Korea where domestic violence is connived, it said.

The ministry’s research based on 302 defectors from the North — 102 men and 200 women — showed that 85.2 percent of defector families experienced some sort of violence between husbands and wives over the last 12 months.

Most of the couples are comprised of both a North Korean defector wife and husband, while the rest are made of a defector wife and a South Korean husband, or vice versa. In most cases, violent acts were carried out by men on women.

The percentage of domestic violence was much higher than the 53.8 percent for average South Korean couples.

When multiple replies were allowed, 51.3 percent of the defectors said they had suffered physical violence, and 75.5 percent suffered from emotional violence, meaning verbal abuse, threats of physical violence or destruction of the spouse’s property.

It showed 43.8 percent had endured “economic violence” — not giving living costs to a spouse or disposing property without the partner’s consent; 33.6 percent suffered from sexual abuse; and 59.5 percent suffered from negligence.

“Compared with average couples, every type of domestic violence took place more frequently between North Korean defector couples. The frequency of physical violence between those couples was three times higher than the average,” Kim Kwang-yun, the ministry official, said.

“The frequent violence stems from North Korea’s patriarchal custom. The society accepts violence especially towards women,” he said.

At the resettlement center of Hanawon, defectors receive education on South Korean etiquette, but Hanawon instructors say it is not easy to change North Korean men’s macho character, according to Kim.

“Those from the North, especially women, learn about the wrongfulness of domestic violence after coming here. But only about half of them are aware of the law preventing domestic violence and other ways to help them. We’ll try to boost the awareness and propose Hanawon educate the women more on domestic violence,” Kim said.

A woman dies from domestic violence every 63 minutes in Russia, with more than 650,000 women beaten by their husbands and other relatives each year, a non-governmental organisation reported earlier in December.

The violence “results in the death of 14,000 women each year” in Russia, the ANNA women’s support group said in a report.

“In other words, this translates into another woman being killed by her husband once every 63 minutes,” the organisation’s president Marina Pisklakova told AFP.

She said the rate had remained relatively stable since 1995, although the interior ministry only began issuing official domestic violence figures in 2008.

For comparison, a woman is killed in a British domestic violence case once every three days, according to the Refuge women’s centre.

Pisklakova said the violence in Russia could be partially explained by a patriarchal society “in which women are accustomed to violence, which they treat as simple marital conflict.”

Though aware of the problem, Russian authorities have done little to help, Pisklakova said.

“There is one 35-bed (female) shelter in a Russian capital of 10 million inhabitants,” she said.

Hundreds of people stood shoulder to shoulder in Beirut, demonstrating their support for a women’s rights campaign that has swept the city earlier this month.

It’s called a human chain, and activists say it visually represents their cause: Men and women standing together against domestic violence. Most of the 200 people lining the streets of Beirut are wearing white banners, or white scarves saying, “Be a real man: United in ending violence against women.”

Anthony Keedi, one of the organizers, says that the ribbons are a part of a worldwide campaign designed to get men to speak out against domestic violence. And, although White Ribbon Campaigns, have been going on around the world for many years, this is the first time it has been introduced in the Middle East. He says Lebanese men often support the cause once they understand it to be a human rights issue, rather than exclusively a women’s issue.

“They realize that, yeah, they might have stood for this all along,” said Keedi. “They just haven’t spoken about it. And now they’re realizing that it is their job. It’s a sense of ownership. It is my obligation to speak about it because these are my principles.”

This demonstration was one of many in Beirut over the past two weeks and part of a global campaign against domestic violence called: “16 Days of Activism Against Violence Against Women.” In Beirut, the campaign also included the presentation of a pilot study by activist organizations, Kafa (Enough) Violence and Exploitation and Oxfam.

The study indicates that most men in Lebanon grow up as either witnesses or victims of violence and that domestic violence is found equally in Lebanese families, regardless of socio-economic status or religion. It also shows that Lebanese men generally define violence only in terms of beatings or rape- not psychological or verbal abuse. And the men in Lebanon are, as one activist put it, bombarded with norms of masculinity.

Kafa has also focused the local anti-domestic violence campaign on gathering support for a change in the Lebanese law. Currently, there are no laws in Lebanon designed to protect women from violence inside their homes. If adopted by Parliament, activists say the law will protect women by allowing them to report abuses confidentially, seek protection orders against their husbands, and create private family courts. During the campaign, organizers passed out a petition supporting the law that now, after two years of campaigning, has about 10,000 signatures.

Activist Marita Kassis says that although many governments in the Middle East, like Lebanon, have signed international human rights agreements, treaties have done little for the women here. She says women in Lebanon need new local laws, and to change the way society views violence against women.

Despite successful campaigns to promote gender equality, China continues to struggle with high rates of domestic violence, which experts say impacts not only families but society as a whole.

One-third of Chinese households cope with domestic abuse, both physical and psychological, according to a national survey by the All-China Women’s Federation (ACWF), the largest women’s non-government organisation in China.

The study found that the violence mostly takes place in rural areas, in young families and in households with lower educational levels. Men commit 90 percent of the violent acts, the study found.

Another study conducted by the China Law Institute in Gansu, Hunan and Zhejiang provinces found that one-third of the families surveyed had experienced family violence and that 85 percent of the victims were women. It found that domestic abuse was so prevalent that both men and women identified it as a part of normal family life. Just 5 percent of respondents said their marriage was unhappy.

Domestic violence “has a pernicious influence on families and society as a whole. It threatens social stability, imperils marriages and threatens children’s well-being,” said Xu Rong, chief of the projects section at the Beijing Cultural Development Centre for Rural Women.

In rural areas in particular, the long-standing idea that women should be in subordinate positions to men is a primary contributor to abuse. In China, as in many other countries, domestic violence is considered a private matter and this makes it difficult for women in distress to seek help.

Domestic violence is also a main contributor to high rates of suicide among women in rural areas.

According to a report posted on Da Ai Net, a news portal that focuses on mental health and family education, about 157,000 Chinese women kill themselves each year, and the rate of suicide is three to five times higher in rural areas than urban centres.

According to one survey based on 260 cases of suicide among rural women, 66 percent had been victims of domestic violence. Xie Lihua, editor of ‘Rural Women’ magazine and secretary-general of the Development Centre for Rural Women, attributed the violence to the traditional belief that boys are more valuable that girls, the subordinate position of women in the countryside and the lack of assistance available to abused women, according to Da Ai Net.

But there is evidence that domestic violence is prevalent in higher-income families as well. A survey by the Guangdong Municipal Women’s Federation showed that of 548 cases of household abuse, 111 had members with college diplomas, 72 were public servant households and 88 of the households had incomes above 2,000 yuan (298 U.S. dollars) per month.

China’s constitution stipulates that “women in the P.R.C. (People’s Republic of China) enjoy equal rights to men in all spheres of life.” But until recently, there were no laws specifically addressing domestic violence in China, said Li Yinhe, China’s first female sociologist who currently works as a researcher and mentor to doctoral students at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences’ Institute of Sociology.

In 2001, an amendment to the marriage law included the term “domestic violence” for the first time in Chinese law. In that same year, stipulations about domestic violence appeared for the first time in an amendments to the General Provisions of the Marriage Law.

China has since signed The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and has its own stand-alone laws that ban domestic violence against women and children.

An alliance of civil society organisations was recently created to conduct a project they call ‘Domestic Violence in China: Research, Intervention and Prevention’, and Chinese courts are starting to tackle the problem.

In August 2008, a court in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, issued China’s first court order on the protection of personal safety when it prohibited a husband from beating or humiliating his wife.

Xu, whose work focuses primarily on suicide prevention in rural areas, said that despite still high rates of domestic violence, there have been significant improvements in recent years. Notably, increased rural incomes have helped alleviate the problem somewhat.

Still, much more needs to be done.

Li said China needs to increase funds for women’s shelters and promote gender education. Xu added that China should also strengthen its laws against domestic violence, and promote prevention and protection. “We need to spread the idea that domestic violence is illegal across the whole society,” Xu said. (END)

* Two family protection centres open in Baghdad
* Location at police stations a problem

As the violence of sectarian warfare ebbs, Iraq’s government has taken tentative first steps to combat another kind of violence — domestic abuse, primarily against women.

The Interior Ministry has opened two “family protection” centres in Baghdad police stations, the first of their kind, to deal with cases of domestic violence.

The centres are staffed mainly by female social workers and investigators, an important step in Iraq’s male-oriented culture to make women feel more comfortable about reporting abuse.

So far, because the centres are at police stations and domestic violence remains a taboo subject, few women have dared to go them for help. Yet the state Ministry of Woman’s Affairs considers the centres to be a victory for Iraqi women who once had nowhere to turn.

“I always call this violence the untold crime because it did not end up always in the courts … it’s a serious issue if there are no civil centres or legal authority to resolve it,” Azhar al-Shaarbaf, the ministry’s legal expert.

Shaarbaf said Iraqi politicians once rejected the idea of women being abused and turned a blind eye to the issue.

“Now the political class comprehends the words ‘abused woman,’ which is progress, since the political class is the one that makes decisions,” she said.

Iraq has no official data on abused women but the government no longer denies it is a problem that needs to be dealt with. Kamil Ameen, a spokesman for the human rights ministry, said a lot of Iraqi women are abused, whether through disrespectful treatment, verbal insults or beatings.

It is not unusual to see signs of violence on a woman’s body or to hear shouting or crying coming from houses.

But women seldom complain or seek help. Tradition makes it difficult for a woman to complain to police about a husband because she could be seen, even by her own relatives, as having brought shame upon the family.

“The reason is the cultural nature of the society. When the women is abused she has no place to go,” Ameen said. “She still feels afraid and considers complaining socially unacceptable.”

At the new family protection centre in Baghdad’s Qahira district, a police lieutenant who asked to be identified only as Israa said while the centres were a positive sign, their location — in police stations — limited their usefulness.

“It is not going to work … because she (an abused woman) will consider herself coming to the police station, not to a social centre, and that is socially unacceptable,” she said.

The centres are not shelters for abused women and their main mission is to resolve conflict. In the case of a woman beaten by her husband, for example, the offender might be required to sign a document promising not to do it again.

Israa, a university graduate in psychology, said in her four months at both family centres she had seen only one case where a woman came in to complain her husband had beaten her.

The human rights ministry said it had tried to have the centres located somewhere else, but had no success so far.

“We asked to make them far away and independent from the police station so women could go to them with freedom,” Ameen said. “This is not easy for our society but we have to start somewhere, like any other country.”

For G.M., an Iraqi woman who asked to be identified only by her initials, reporting her husband to police is not an option, even though she said she considers him abusive, both verbally and by his disrespectful manner toward her.

“The Iraqi woman is abused and she must keep silent,” she said. “He does not beat me. But even if he does, I won’t go to a police station. This is not ethical.”

A total of 126 women died as a result of domestic violence in Argentina during the first half of this year, 40 percent more than during the same period in 2009, according to statistics published by the organisation La Casa del Encuentro.

The report is based on the cases reported in Argentine news media.

‘With the lack of official statistics, newspaper articles are the best way of understanding this tragic phenomenon,’ said Fabiana Tunez, the general coordinator of La Casa del Encuentro.

Just 18 of the 126 victims who lost their lives in the first half of the year had filed complaints against their attackers, who in the majority of cases were the women’s current or former husbands or boyfriends.

Most of the crimes occurred in the province of Buenos Aires, the most populated in Argentina, according to the study.

Tunez demanded that the government implement public policies that ‘prevent and eradicate’ sexual violence, as well as develop ‘awareness campaigns’ in schools.

She also asked that the government draft the regulations needed to implement the comprehensive protection law to prevent, punish and eradicate violence against women that Congress approved in March 2009.

In addition, she asked that men who kill their partners lose parental rights over their children.

Tunez also urged the Argentine judiciary to impose ‘exemplary sanctions’ against those found guilty of domestic violence, referring to a recent judicial ruling that found that a man had ‘not intended’ to kill his wife.

A national campaign that uses the power of pop culture, media and community mobilisation for outreach against domestic violence India has bagged the prestigious Silver Lion at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

Right’s body Breakthrough’s “Bell Bajao! Campaign” against domestic violence has bagged the prestigious Silver Lion, India’s only win in the film category out of the five shortlisted entries.

The films have been created by Ogilvy & Mather and directed by Bauddhayan Mukherjee of Little Lamb Films.

“Bell Bajao” campaign was launched in August 2008 with the support of the Ministry of Women and Child Development and campaign ambassador and popular filmstar Boman Irani. The campaign is based on true stories of people who joined the movement against domestic violence.

“The Silver Lion provides us with a global platform to spotlight violence against women and to ask men and boys to become partners in ending it,” Mallika Dutt, executive director of Breakthrough said in a statement.

“What makes this win even more wonderful, is the fact that this work was not created because one wanted to win an award. But because everyone from the client to the creative team to the filmmaker believed this was what it would take to put an end to domestic violence,” said Ogilvy & Mather group creative director Zenobia Pithawalla.

The Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival is considered one of the biggest celebration of creativity in communications.

The US justice department has confirmed that federal laws giving protection against domestic violence also apply to gays and lesbians.

A memo posted yesterday by the department said prosecutors should enforce criminal provisions in the Violence Against Women Act in cases involving gay and lesbian relationships.

These provisions include those related to domestic violence, stalking and protection order violations.

The Defence of Marriage Act says that federal law can only consider the words “spouse” and “marriage” to relate to opposite-sex couples.

But David J Barron, the acting assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, said that domestic violence laws also contain phrases such as “dating partner” and “intimate partner.”

“The text, relevant case law and legislative history all support the conclusion” that the law’s criminal provisions “apply when the offender and the victim are the same sex,” Mr. Barron wrote.

Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese said: “Today’s memorandum by the Department of Justice is one step forward in ensuring that LGBT people are protected by our federal domestic violence laws.

“Some of our families, like all Americans, experience domestic violence and those impacted by such violence should enjoy equal protections, and equal dignity, when they seek assistance from law enforcement. We thank the Department of Justice for releasing this important interpretation.”

A 2010 report by the National Centre for Victims of Crime and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programmes found that gay couples are just as likely to be affected by domestic violence as heterosexual couples.


A total of 2,753 women were victims of violence in the decade 2000-09, according to Tonga Police statistics that show on average 23 women per month come to police to report an incident of physical or sexual violence; and last year four women died in domestic incidents.

“The majority of these victims were assaulted in the domestic environment – ‘the home or safe environment!’ and without doubt nearly all the attackers, the offenders were known to the victims,” said Tonga’s Police Commander Chris Kelley today, in opening the National Consultation Process on “Advocacy Strategies for Advancing Legislative Change to address Violence against women”.

Commander Kelley said that, perhaps, an anti-violence curriculum is just as important as reading, writing and arithmetic in schools and that Tonga Police are looking to introduce a schools programme over the next two years.

“My point is that look to the starting point, look at when, how, where it might begin, in the sons of today are the traits of the men tomorrow,” he said.

“If you are to review the concepts of violence against women, endorse findings in local research, develop strategies, introduce new laws, initiatives, you need to identify at least one important point. Where does it begin? What stimulates the act of violence against women here in Tonga?” he said.

“In my opinion it’s a learned behaviour perpetrated in peer pressure. Yes, it’s a power thing, a control mechanism but I don’t think you are born with a gene labeled ‘domestic violence’ – you learn from others, regrettably.

“If your son sees his father assaulting his mother and getting away with it, is it OK?

“If your son is encouraged to indulge in school fighting because of some misguided honour, or his father and grandfather did it, is it OK?

“If the availability and consumption rate of alcohol plays a major part in domestic violence, is it OK?

“If you have a wife and family but little or no relationship skills then is it OK?

“If it’s not appropriate to assault your mother and sister but it is alright to assault your wife or other women, then is it OK?

“We all know it’s never OK!” he said.

Commander Kelly said that the ten years of statistics referred to grievous bodily harm, to rape, indecent assault, injury and wounding, but these statistics did not include intimidation, threats or psychological and emotional abuse.

“The reported rate of violence against women has climbed from 113 in the year 2000 to 404 in 2009. Now, well over one report each day of a serious assault incident against women is made by women.”

He said that the courts have entered convictions in 1304 of those 2,753 cases, or 47%. Other cases were withdrawn, acquitted or still under investigation and pending trial..

These statistics don’t include murder and manslaughter, which reached a peak in 2009 when four women died in separate domestic incidents.

“Remember I am quoting you reported crime. What about the unreported figure and %. I don’t know what that figure is – who does?

“Don’t fall into the trap of changing the law for change sake but I strongly believe the law needs to reflect the rights of women and children and recognize their special place in society,” he said.

“If we are to introduce new laws we must look at ways that will benefit women and children, protect women and children – not just punish men, because that hasn’t been too successful if you accept the reported statistics,” he said.

Tonga Police are introducing a domestic violence response policy in July this year and a draft will be discussed in the seminar. A feature of the police Domestic Violence Response Guidelines is the ‘No Drop Policy’ for reported physical assaults.

“Police will seek feedback on the draft policy before introduction – that process will help contribute to positive outcomes for this consultation,” Commander Kelley said.

He added that these issues are not peculiar to Tonga, not indigenous to this country, not a reflection of every male in Tonga today. “Acknowledgment is one thing, acceptance is another, acceptance that change is required will be the key to progress.”

The consultation was organised by the Pacific Regional Rights Resource Team of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SCP) in partnership with the Women’s Affairs and Culture with the aim to improve legislation to protect women and to develop appropriate policy and legislation in Tonga. Over four days this week the participants will review existing general assault laws, discriminatory provisions and practices in the areas of violence against women and develop practical strategies for legislative change in the area of violence against women.

Three years into its enactment, the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act is hampered by limited awareness and inadequate budgets.

Women’s groups at the recently held national consultation on the Act regretted “the lack of commitment on the government’s part to effectively implement it”. Crucial factors that aid the implementation of the Act – appointment of protection officers (POs) and counsellors; training of police and judicial officers and awareness generation and publicity – have been neglected, the meet found.

Ranjana Kumari, director of the Centre for Social Research (CSR), said: “This is a pathbreaking civil law but it needs support systems in place to deliver justice to the victims of domestic violence. (The lack of these owes to) the callousness of the authorities towards women, the lack of initiative to spread awareness about the Act and the lack of adequate budgetary allocation.” Only 14 states have separate budgetary allocations for the Act. Most states are yet to appoint POs, who are often the first ‘ points of contact’ for victims of domestic violence.

The CSR, during countrywide consultations, found that even when POs were appointed, they were at times unaware of their duties or the legal remedies available to the victims.

Another drawback is the lack of publicity. The CSR found that people were aware only of the dowry law and didn’t understand the significance of this Act. Even emergency helpline numbers for victims haven’t been publicised effectively.

Praveen K. Bharti of NGO Ummang said: ” This is one of the most progressive laws as it covers all domestic relationships of women…but women are scared and reluctant to speak out and the law does little to embolden or empower them.”

A bill to protect women in Jammu and Kashmir from domestic violence was introduced in the legislative Assembly earlier this month.

Introducing the bill, Social Welfare Minister Sakina Ittoo said the bill, aimed at giving protection to women against any kind of violence within the family, will be a ‘historical legislation’ in the state.

The bill defines ‘domestic violence’ to include actual abuse or threats by husbands that is physical, sexual, verbal, emotional or economic. Harassment by way of dowry demands would also be covered under the definition.

According to the objectives of the bill, the measure seeks to ‘protect the women from being victims of domestic violence in society and cover those women who are in a relationship with the abuser where both parties have lived together in a shared household and are related by consanguinity, marriage, adoption in addition to relationship with family members living together as a joint family’.

‘However, whereas the bill enables the wife to file a complaint under the proposed enactment against any relative of the husband or the male partner, it does not enable female relatives of the husband or the male partner to file a complaint against the wife or the female partner.’

The bill also provides for the right of women to secure housing and to reside in her matrimonial home or shared household, whether or not she has any title or rights there.

Rights activists blame the economy, Hamas-Fatah tensions and the conflict with Israel for the rising number of cases of violence against women. Disinterest in domestic abuse by the judicial authorities and the apparent impunity of violators have made matters worse, they say.

A March 2010 report by the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) explores women’s perceptions of the organizations or legal bodies designed to protect them, based on focus group discussions and interviews with women and girls in the West Bank and Gaza between June and November 2009.

“Women and girls revealed that their feelings of insecurity are related to the ongoing conflict, society’s tacit acceptance of violence against women, their own lack of awareness of service providers, and their distrust of the available services,” the report said.

“Women and girls explained that they were reluctant to resort to women’s organizations, human rights organizations, or security and justice providers, such as the police and courts, because of the strong social stigma attached to reporting abuse.”

The report said women recommended more awareness-raising events and education campaigns for all segments of society about women’s rights and the institutions in place to uphold them. They also felt better training was needed for members of the social services, women’s and human rights organizations and hospital staff and police – in addition to increased female representation in these organizations and political life in general.

A 2008 survey of 2,400 Palestinians by Ramallah-based independent research centre Arab World for Research & Development (AWRAD) found that 74 percent of Palestinians did not know of a women’s or human rights organization working in the field of women’s rights; and 77 percent of respondents believed that laws needed to be enacted to protect women from domestic violence.

In December 2009, a report by the Gaza-based Palestinian Women’s Information and Media Center (PWIC) noted an upsurge in violence against women since Israel imposed an economic blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2007, after Hamas became the de facto authority there.

The study – based on 24 workshops and interviews with 350 other women in the last quarter of 2009 – found that 77 percent of women in Gaza had experienced violence of various sorts, 53 percent had experienced physical violence and 15 percent sexual abuse.

“The levels of violence against women in the Gaza Strip are higher than they were in previous years, and compared to other countries the rates are certainly higher,” Huda Hamouda, director of PWIC, said. “Women are exposed to hardships in every sphere, be it financial, social, political or lack of security.”

She said widespread unemployment was one of the biggest contributors to household stress, and in turn male violence towards females.

“It’s hard to imagine a family living in dignity when they live on less than three dollars a day. Many say they don’t feel respected and suffer depression. Poverty affects education and public participation. It limits their social standing,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Commission on the Status of Women, a commission of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), on 12 March approved a text on the status of and assistance to Palestinian women, to be sent to ECOSOC for adoption.

The draft resolution expresses concern about the “grave situation of Palestinian women in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, resulting from the severe impact of the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation and all of its manifestations”.

Part of a longer report at

Domestic violence in Japan increased 11.7 per cent in 2009 to 28,158 reported cases, the highest since surveys began in 2002 according to the National Police Agency (NPA).

The number included 2,429 serious cases where courts issued restraining orders against partners, spouses or other family members under the domestic violence prevention law, the NPA said.

A further 1,658 cases of domestic violence were handled under other laws, including 552 assaults, 853 injuries, and 44 murders or attempted murders, they added.

In 2008, a government survey of 1,358 women with current or former partners found that 33.2 per cent reported suffering physical assaults, psychological threats or sexual coercion from their partner.

However, about half of the victims never reported the incidents nor mentioned them to anyone, the Cabinet Office said in its report.

Asked why, 50 per cent of these silent victims said that they did not consider the problem serious enough, and 36 per cent said they blamed themselves.

‘Some women think some of the fault might be theirs,’ said Mie Ueda, an executive board member of Japan Women’s Shelter Network for victims of domestic violence.

‘The first thing that I tell a battered woman is, ‘You are not the one in the wrong’,’ she said.

Experts and activists claim the incidence of domestic violence is likely to be much higher than reported, since many Japanese people still regard violence against women as a family matter rather than a violation of the women’s human rights.

‘One of the biggest problems is that the commercialization of women’s bodies is taken for granted in Japanese society,’ Ueda said. ‘The media have also failed to provide a serious debate about the issue of domestic violence.’

Activists, lawyers and victims have long been pushing for more effective laws to protect victims of domestic violence.

In April 2001, the Japanese Diet passed a law – which came into force in October 2001 – allowing courts to impose restraining orders on abusive husbands. In 2007, the remit of this law was extended to included unmarried partners.

Every fourth woman in Bulgaria is a victim of domestic violence, Bulgarian National Television (BNT) said on March 6 2010, two days ahead of International Women’s Day.

Most cases are caused by men seeking to exercise power over their spouses, with other causal factors including lack of money, alcohol, and childhood psychological trauma, according to research cited in a news agency report quoted by BNT.

Stanimira Hadzhimitrova, co-founder of director of the Gender Project in Bulgaria said that violence existed in many forms and was widespread.

Statistics were imprecise because many victims were ashamed or feared retribution while others had the support of friends and relatives.

According to research done by the Gender Project in 2000, in 92 per cent of cases, the perpetrators of domestic violence physical assaults were men. Women were “masters” of psychological and mental abuse that was no less frightening, Hadzhimitrova was quoted as saying.

Forcing someone into prostitution should also be seen as a form of violence and there should be extensive discussion of this issue before there was any decision on regularising sex work, she said.

She called for civic education in schools on the topic of domestic violence.

BNT quoted research showing that it was untrue to claim that domestic violence was limited to less educated and poorer sections of Bulgarian society; it existed at all strata.

There were few convictions because current law failed to provide rapid and effective protection for victims, and prosecutors still tended to regard abuse in the home as a family problem and not as a criminal offence. Further, it was a taboo to discuss domestic violence.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament has launched a special webpage dedicated to International Women’s Day 2010.

“Through the whole month of March this page will bring you coverage of EP events dealing with this year’s theme: ending violence against women. MEPs, national MPs, special guests, experts and the public will contribute to the debate in meetings, events and even via Facebook, with ideas on how to prevent violence and help victims. The theme of the campaign – all documents, interviews, photos and video – will always be the same: We can stop it!” the webpage says.

As an emergency telephone line for victims of domestic violence launches in Syria, a pioneering project is training professionals to support affected women. A group of lawyers, social workers and volunteers from Dera’a and Yarmouk Legal Advice Bureaux studied the legal issues concerning domestic violence during the three-month course.

The training, offered with the support of the Damask Rose Trust and the British Embassy in Syria, also focuses on discrimination against women and children.

The course finishes in early March, with a graduation ceremony on International Women’s Day (8 March). The participants will also be inaugurating Syria’s first-ever emergency telephone line for people affected by domestic violence, which will operate in Yarmouk.

Daad Mousa, a lawyer turned women’s rights’ activist, ran the workshop. He said: “I’ve been working for the past 15 years in the field of legal counselling for women that are victims of violence and have been involved in several important projects, but this one in particular tops them all.”

The group learned invaluable tools for better performing their emotionally demanding jobs. The workshop included in-depth courses on international law and conventions on women’s rights, as well as courses on Syrian legal and administrative procedures regarding violence against women and children.

Participants also had the chance to apply their new abilities to real-life case studies.

Hatifa Rashid, a Yarmouk social worker who took part in the workshop, said: “This is one of the first efforts of its kind in Syria – a hotline for people that suffer domestic violence. It is a new step towards addressing the problem and eventually preventing it.

“That is why I feel so happy to be a part of this and be able to help other people, making women feel they are not alone.”

The Damask Rose Trust is a registered UK charity established in 2006 by a group of British and Syrian academics, development specialists and philanthropists. It supports welfare and development projects in Syria, and promotes appreciation of Syria’s cultural heritage among British audiences. The Trust focuses on training and capacity-building projects which meet the needs of disadvantaged groups, especially among young people, women, the elderly and people affected by disability.

This training is part of a series of activities and capacity-building workshops carried out by UNRWA with the financial support of the Damask Rose Trust.

The Government in Cyprus launched a National Action Plan against domestic violence last week to develop a national strategy and coordinate the overall approach taken by the state in battling the phenomenon.

There were 1,067 recorded incidences of domestic violence in Cyprus last year.

“I wish to underline that despite everything done to recognise and address domestic violence in Cyprus what was missing was a national strategy to combat domestic violence in Cyprus and this is what we are announcing today,” said Sotiroulla Charalambous, the Minister of Labour and Social Insurance.

The legal structure already in place in Cyprus to deal with domestic violence has been repeatedly rated as one of the best internationally, according to many European organizations. In particular it is praised for its inclusive approach which provides for the protection of victims, the punishment of those responsible and therapy for those who have been involved in incidents of domestic violence.

“It is very important when a woman has experienced domestic violence for there to be therapeutic programmes that she can join to help her overcome the incident and develop,” said Charalambous.

Charalambous went on to say that domestic violence usually arises due to socio-economic problems which tie in to the relationship situations of a couple. She said that “violence is about power in a relationship” and emphasised that Cyprus, as a state, was using all the international tools at their disposal “to combat this phenomenon”.

The provisional figures for 2009 record 1,067 incidents of domestic violence in Cyprus, the majority of which are against women, though many involve children also. The incidence of domestic violence against men, whilst they are not excluded from consideration as potential victims, is very low.

In practice, the National Action Plan was originally formulated to coordinate government policy over the time period 2008-2013 but was only recently approved by the Cabinet on December 3 2009. An analytical process will now follow to formulate how the ministries and departments will work together interactively on the issue and to decide which provisions within the plan are the most essential. It is these most essential items within the Action Plan which will be included in the 2011 budget to secure financing to carry them out.

There are already mechanisms in place to address the problem of domestic violence in Cyprus and the state infrastructure is not starting from zero on this matter. “We are improving the mechanisms and tying them into a coordinated, strategically designed, spherical whole,” said Charalambous of the new Action Plan.

The Pakistani government should quickly reintroduce legislation to protect women and children from domestic violence, Human Rights Watch said last week.

The Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Bill was passed unanimously by the National Assembly on August 4, 2009, but the bill lapsed after the Senate failed to pass it within the three months required under the country’s constitution.

“Victims of domestic violence have long faced a double injustice – abuse at home and then no protection from the government,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, senior South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The proposed law has widespread support in Pakistan, and the government should make passing it a priority.”

Legislators from both opposition and government parties told Human Rights Watch that even though President Asif Zardari and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gillani supported the bill, it was delayed by unofficial opposition from some ministers who had privately urged members of Islamist parties to oppose the bill in the upper house. Islamist parties had not opposed the bill in the National Assembly.

“It is appalling that ministers from a political party committed to empowering and protecting women and led by a woman for 25 years are trying to undermine their own government’s legislative agenda,” Hasan said.

The Domestic Violence bill seeks to prevent violence against women and children with a network of protection committees and protection officers and prompt criminal trials for suspected abusers. The bill defines domestic violence as including, though not being limited to, “all intentional acts of gender-based or other physical or psychological abuse committed by an accused against women, children or other vulnerable persons, with whom the accused person is or has been in a domestic relationship.”

The bill requires the court to set a hearing within three days of receiving a complaint and to adjudicate the case within 30 days. The law prescribes incremental terms of imprisonment and fines for each breach of a protection order.

Human Rights Watch said that an amendment to the penal code passed in November that criminalizes the sexual harassment of women is a step forward.

The measure makes sexual harassment or intimidation punishable by three years in prison, a 500,000 rupee fine [US $6,000], or both. The bill includes protection in public places such as markets, public transport, streets, or parks, and more private settings, such as workplaces, private gatherings, and homes.

“The new sexual harassment protections in the penal code are some of the most impressive and extensive in South Asia,” Hasan said. “If it displays the will, Pakistan’s government can be a regional leader in safeguarding women’s rights.”

Human Rights Watch called on the government to submit a companion bill to the sexual harassment measure to provide a mechanism to investigate complaints. The new law provides legal protections without putting in place the mechanisms needed to give female workers access to the protections, Human Rights Watch said.

The companion measure should oblige employers to abide by a code of conduct, provide a mechanism for punishing wilful violators, and offer victims counselling and medical treatment.

“Pakistan’s parliament has passed only half the legislation needed against sexual harassment,” Hasan said. “If the government is serious about protecting women, it should present the companion measure for parliamentary approval immediately.”

After suffering 10 years of horrific abuse at the hands of her husband, Rody Alvarado fled her native Guatemala in 1995 and applied for asylum in the U.S.

Last week, in a one-page decision, an immigration judge finally granted her request. It was the culmination of a long personal odyssey for Alvarado and of a thorny legal case that inflamed passions on both sides of the immigration debate.

The Obama administration now says it is crafting regulations to allow entry by other victims of domestic violence who feel they have no choice but to flee their homelands to protect themselves.

If adopted, the regulations would mark the first time the federal government formally recognized domestic abuse victims as qualifying for political asylum.

“The issue is highly complex, and we are moving ahead to develop regulations that will address these cases,” said U.S. Department of Homeland Security spokesman Matt Chandler.

No details were disclosed regarding the types of cases that would warrant asylum.

In her first interview since the court decision, Alvarado told The Associated Press she is proud of paving the way for women in similar situations.

“I never lost hope,” said Alvarado, a deeply religious woman who left behind two young children when she fled Guatemala. “God never abandoned me.”

Domestic violence claims are controversial in the fight for asylum. Currently, nearly all asylum applications allege persecution by a government rather than an individual. In addition, successful asylum applicants have to show they were persecuted because of religion, political beliefs, race, nationality or membership in a particular social group.

Advocacy groups and politicians calling for tighter borders complain that expanding asylum protection to domestic violence victims would distort the intent of refugee policy and open the borders to increased immigration.

“How are asylum authorities going to substantiate these claims when we know that domestic violence in this country can be a complicated thing,” said Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the advocacy group Federation for American Immigration Reform. “This is getting us into personal relationships, and that’s not where asylum law ought to go.”

Mehlman said his organization opposed expanding the asylum law, which was created in 1980 largely as a means for Communist Bloc citizens to defect while visiting the U.S. in a diplomatic role. Backers of the law at the time estimated that claims would average around 5,000 a year and drop off significantly after the Cold War ended.

In fiscal year 2008, the government received 47,459 asylum claims and granted 10,743 — a decrease over the previous year’s 54,957 applications and 12,807 approvals.

Immigration attorneys insist that asylum applications won’t spike if the administration expands protection to battered women.

Alvarado’s lawyer Karen Musalo, who runs the University of California, Hastings Law School’s Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, predicted few domestic violence victims would apply for asylum.

She said it is difficult for such women to flee their countries, and once in the U.S. they still have a high legal burden to win asylum.

Musalo said immigration numbers remained the same after women fleeing countries that practice genital mutilation won formal asylum protection in 1996.

In Alvarado’s case, Musalo presented testimony from several experts and other evidence showing women in Guatemala faced persecution on several levels and that law enforcement officials and the judiciary offer no protection to domestic violence victims.

“The overwhelming evidence is that it is widely, generally and almost unanimously accepted that abuse against women in Guatemala is considered normal and is absolutely tolerated,” Musalo said.

Alvarado said in court papers her physical, mental and sexual abuse began soon after she married a former military man when she was 16. Her husband pistol-whipped her, routinely beat her, and kicked her in the spine to abort her second pregnancy, she said.

He also tracked her down and beat her after she fled several times to other areas of Guatemala, threatening to kill her each time. He once beat her into unconsciousness in front of her two children.

She was so desperate and fearful that she fled to Brownsville, Texas, without her children. She said she was stopped by a Border Patrol official but allowed to proceed after promising to report to an immigration office. She boarded a flight to San Francisco because it was the destination of other Guatemalans traveling with her.

She randomly met a native Guatemalan awaiting the arrival of her daughter-in-law. The woman invited Alvarado to spend the night, and she ended up staying with the family for two years.

“I believe in guardian angels,” Alvarado said in the interview, as Musalo interpreted.

Still, Alvarado said her legal victory is bittersweet. She has not seen her children since she left her native country. Her son is now 22 and her daughter 17. They speak on the telephone occasionally, but the relationship is estranged.

The children were raised by their father’s parents and do not understand why she left.

See aso: Asylum in US for survivors of domestic violence

Women’s economic marginalization and vulnerability to violence is hindering development in the Arab world, UN and civil society officials said last week.

Launching the Arabic version of the “World Survey on the Role of Women in Development” at the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), representatives said increasing women’s access to resources would have positive implications for social and economic development. The report, published every five years by the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs, was originally published in English in October.

“The Arab woman is still incapable of being equal to men,” said Afaf Omer, head of the ESCWA Center for Women. “Women in the Arab world cannot help society improve unless they enjoy their full rights.”

However, women in the Middle East “still lack any understanding” of the rights to which they are entitled under international law, she said.

Omer noted that while the economic participation of Arab women has risen steadily in recent years, it still lags behind the rest of the world. In Lebanon, women count for 26 percent of the total labor force, an improvement of only one percent since 2000, the UN has said.

According to ESCWA’s report “Women’s Control over Economic Resources and Access to Financial Resources”, released in August 2009, “this [lack of participation] is primarily attributable to the existence of discriminatory laws, failure to implement the non-discriminatory legislation that does exist and a lack of awareness by women of their rights in such matters.”

Lebanon, which signed and ratified the UN Convention of the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1997, maintains reservations on Articles 9, 16, and 29, which pertain to citizenship, family law and the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to settle disputes concerning the convention’s application.

No Arab states, however, have reservations on Articles 10-14 of CEDAW, pertaining to eliminating discrimination in education, employment, health care and economic and social rights. Still, the UN has found a 27 percent wage difference exists between male and female employees aged over 30 in Lebanon, and discrimination against unmarried women workers in terms of sick leave.

Lebanese women-led small enterprises received only 17 percent of the loans of formal institutions in 2006, compared to 47 percent in Tunisia or 32 percent in the United Arab Emirates, the United Nations World Survey said.

Domestic violence is also impeding progress on women’s rights in Lebanon, said Zoya Rouhana of the civil society group KAFA: Enough Violence and Exploitation.

According to 2002 estimates from the United Nations Population Fund, around 35 percent of Lebanese women have experienced physical violence, although KAFA says the figure is closer to 75 percent.

“This year is the 30th anniversary of CEDAW … but most Arab countries have not synchronized their laws” with the convention, often touted as an international bill of rights for women, she said.

The Lebanese penal code has no specific laws relating to domestic violence and does not criminalize marital rape.

“Our laws must reflect the changes that have taken place in our households and amongst [Arab] women,” Rouhana said.