The Republic of Moldova is the 35th state to ratify the Istanbul Convention through Law No 144 of 14th of October 2021. The Council of Europe Convention on Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (herein after, the Istanbul Convention) is the most recent legal development, in Europe, with regards to protection of female victims of violence. The aims of the Convention are reflected in Article 1 and include the elimination of violence against women, the prevention of, the protection against and the prosecution of violence – the so-called three “P” approach. Moreover, the Convention advocates for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women, promotion of substantive equality and female empowerment. To this end, the Convention prescribes substantive and procedural legislative changes, as well as a comprehensive set of measures to be implemented by the government of the contracting parties.
This report reflected the Government’s efforts in applying measures to prevent domestic violence and protect the victims thereof, registering some great achievements in this sense, the most relevant finding is the limited progress when it comes to matters of sexual violence against women. This is highlighted by the fact that there is an insufficient number of specialised centres to support the victims and little activities meant to raise awareness and educate relevant professionals, such as medical workers. This constitutes a serious problem, as sexual violence is a highly stigmatized topic, riddled with harmful beliefs surrounding it. As recognized in the national strategy, victim blaming, shame and prejudice are some of the prevalent phenomena accompanying sexual abuse and a systemic disfunction which prevents victims from seeking support, help and, most importantly, justice. Hence, there is a pressing need for the competent authorities to take a coordinated approach and prioritize solving these systemic issues.
Based on the Government’s strategy for combatting domestic violence, the information provided by the Ministry of Social Protection, as well as the data gathered from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a set of recommendations has been developed:
- The outstanding issue is the lack of specialised centres for victims of sexual violence. As mentioned in the report, the EVA project is being implemented by UN Women by 2023. That being acknowledged, only two districts, namely Ungheni and Cahul, will benefit from such a service centre. This is problematic, because victims might not have the ability to access those services if they are geographically located further away from the centres. International standards in the field require at least one place in specialised centres for women victims of sexual violence per 20 000 inhabitants. Therefore, allocating resources for the purposes of opening specialised centres for victims of sexual violence is of uttermost importance and should be prioritised more.
- Another issue is diminished levels/ virtual lack of training of a wider range of professionals. While representatives of the police and some social service workers benefit from training sessions, this is a far cry from the comprehensive education for a wider categories of professionals required to adequately assist victims of sexual and physical violence. Adequate and in-depth training must be provided to medical workers, which provide assistance to victims, forensic evaluation in cases of sexual violence and alert the competent authorities. Hence, further efforts are required to address the systemic issues in this department.
- An important objective is promoting women’s economic empowerment and socio-economic independence. This is crucial as economic dependence on aggressors is one of the primary reasons why women are trapped in abusive relationships and fail to report the violence to authorities, fearing economic repercussions. It is important to note that the number of victims receiving financial support, sheltering, as well as coaching sessions on navigating the labour market has increased to a certain extent from 2020 to 2022. However, further effort needs to be put into developing programs for obtaining qualifications which would make them more competitive on the market, allowing them to gain a sense of financial security and sever their dependence on abusive partners.
Author: Otilia VATAVU
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