Every year about 1.85 million Ukrainian women suffer domestic violence. These are the results of the research conducted by UNFPA. But only a small part of victims contact the police (only 127,478 in 2016). Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces in cooperation with the NGO “La Strada – Ukraine” researched the criminal justice system and the way it solves cases involving domestic violence. The results were presented at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
Within the research, they interviewed judges, prosecutors and police officers, analyzed the cases of domestic violence and its root causes. Unfortunately, the research has shown that Ukraine does not adequately respond to the problem of domestic violence and violence against women, society tolerates violence against women, and offenders avoid real punishment terms.
Ineffective investigation into violence against women
According to Alain Laferte, coordinator of the project “Gender and security programme” of Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, the research resulted in determining the key indicators of ineffective investigation of violence. Firstly, victims rarely report cases of violence. Moreover, such cases are often left without proper consideration and they are not even registered in the criminal justice system. Secondly, cases are often lost and not investigated. Accordingly, court does not pass a judgment on such cases. Thirdly, courts do not pass any judgment to prevent further violence. Offenders receive less punishment and it does not stop them from committing more acts of violence which is a bad example.
This situation arose because of widespread gender stereotypes and partiality of law enforcement bodies and the judicial system that are skeptical of such cases and underestimate the importance of the case. They often blame the injured of becoming victims of violence. This causes distrust on the part of women. In addition, law enforcement agencies lack expertise in considering such cases due to insufficient staffing, said Alain Laferte.
Ukrainian society tolerates violence
Kateryna Levchenko, President of the NGO “La Strada – Ukraine,” presented the statistical data collected from the survey of police and prosecutors, analysis of court decisions on cases of violence against women and domestic violence. 10% of prosecutors, 11% of judges, 12% of police officers justify some cases of family violence. 39% of officers in the criminal justice system consider domestic violence to be a private matter, 60% blame sexual violence on its victims.
During judicial proceedings of domestic violence cases 77% of prosecutors, 81% of police officers and 84% of judges consider reconciliation partners and family preservation to be the case top priority, with violence being underestimated and considered a minor dispute.
Criminal justice system shortcomings
Courts often consider the cases of violence from a formal point of view. The monitoring of 77 hearings revealed that the average duration of meetings is 4 to 23 minutes. Offenders do not appear in courts. Only every 6th abuser appeared in court. This often results in canceling the hearings.
According to Alain Laferte, women are unaware of help they can get if they are victims of violence. Kateryna Cherepakha, project manager of the NGO “La Strada – Ukraine,”
noted that there is a significant lack of knowledge and awareness of the regulatory framework governing the issue of domestic violence and violence against women, both national and international. 45% of police officers, 72% of prosecutors, and 87% of judges do not have information on support services that can help victims of domestic violence.
Besides, according to Alain Laferte, the research results showed a disappointing situation: instead of preventing violence against women the criminal justice system contributes to worsening the crime situation and impunity.