The restrictions imposed by the pandemic crisis led to a significant increase in domestic violence cases. According to the study on the impact of COVID-19 on gender equality in the Republic of Moldova, 46% of women respondents are afraid of domestic violence. The number of distress calls on the hotline has increased by 35% since the outbreak of the pandemic.
This subject was discussed within the public dialogue “ORANGE ALERT. The pandemic did not put on hold gender-based violence”. Representatives of international organizations and NGOs, professionals in the field of preventing gender-based violence – 70 participants have discussed about the challenges, as well as the efforts made for reducing the violence against women. The event took place on 7 December 2020, in a mixed format, online and in Gagauzia, within the first centre for assisting victims of violence, which was inaugurated on the same day.
“Women survivors of violence are mainly in need of essential products, income, shelter and access to healthcare, psychological and legal support. Violence against women and girls continues to be an obstacle to achieving equality, development, peace and justice, as well as to the fulfilment of women and girls’ human rights,” declared Dima Al-Khatib, Resident Representative for UNDP in the Republic of Moldova, at the opening of the event.
The public dialogue aimed at raising awareness and identifying solutions to ensure a coordinated response to the cases of violence against women and girls, emphasizing on access to justice for the survivors of violence against women and girls, as well as on the local solutions already implemented with the support of the development partners.
“We believe that gender-based violence is a phenomenon deeply rooted in gender inequality and continues to be one of the most notable human rights violations within all societies,” declared Anna Lyberg, Ambassador of Sweden to the Republic of Moldova.
Within the two sessions, the participants tackled the most recent modifications to the regulatory framework that approaches violence against women and girls, the provisions of the Istanbul Convention and its impact on national legislation, the current challenges related to the necessity of having a coordinated response from professionals in the field of justice, as well as the creation and effective provision of social assistance services.
The national legislation regarding the prevention and fighting gender-based violence is advanced, according to the participants at the dialogue. At the same time, it was a priority on the agenda of the legislators should be the ratification of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the Istanbul Convention). This is the most comprehensive international treaty, which recognizes the phenomenon of violence against women as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination. The Republic of Moldova signed the Convention in 2017 and the next step would be its ratification.
At the local level, there is need of services prepared to react in cases of violence, as well as a prompt communication between specialists (police, social assistance, medical assistance, teachers, educators), the multidisciplinary team being a model to be followed and replicated in all communities.
At the same time, local public authorities should be provided with several tools and competencies to efficiently fight violence against women.
Sometimes, the victims knock on the doors of the People's Advocate Office:
“A lot of people, whose cases weren’t fully heard by the police or the legal advisers, addressed the People's Advocate Office. They required professional assistance, because they had multiple problems. Each beneficiary coming to the centre expects assistance and qualified help,” said Svetlana Mironova, People's Advocate Office, Gagauzia.
Now that in Gagauzia there is a centre for supporting women who suffered from domestic violence, it is also necessary to create a counselling service for aggressors, believes Vitalii Derevenco, Chief of the Justice Department, Gagauzia: “We will need to also open a centre for the aggressors, where they would benefit from psychological assistance. Probation services will be involved in solving certain situations.”
During the pandemic, the victims of domestic violence faced barriers in access to justice. A mechanism that would ensure the efficiency of the examination process of the cases in the current pandemic conditions is necessary, to avoid delays and obstruction. It is necessity to clarify how the victim, the defendant and the witnesses can access the courtroom in the context of the pandemic.
Another recommendation of the participants at the dialogue was the provision of support in preparing the documentation necessary for initiating a judicial process. A mechanism which needs to be promoted is state guaranteed juridical assistance. In Comrat, there is a territorial office that offers these types of services free of charge.
“Substantive discussions on domestic violence should happen not only in Chisinau; we should inform citizens in all the regions of the Republic of Moldova that the problem of domestic violence persists. We need to work very hard with the young generation, educate youth, girls and boys,” concluded the governor of Gagauzia, Irina Vlah, host of the event.
The public dialogue was organized by UNDP, Sweden and the Executive Committee of Gagauzia.