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Hungary: Effectiveness of state efforts to combat violence against women, including domestic abuse (January 2005 - August 2006)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 31 August 2006
Citation / Document Symbol HUN101699.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Hungary: Effectiveness of state efforts to combat violence against women, including domestic abuse (January 2005 - August 2006), 31 August 2006, HUN101699.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f147462.html [accessed 26 November 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

It is estimated that approximately one in five Hungarian women are threatened or are victims of domestic violence (US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5; see also The Budapest Sun 12 Jan. 2006). An uncorroborated United Nations (UN) report cited by The Budapest Sun indicates that, in Hungary, one woman dies every week and one child every month as a result of domestic violence (ibid.). A survey of Hungarian media and police reports by the NANE Women's Rights Association (also known as the Women for Women Together Against Violence Association of Hungary), found that one person is murdered every four days as a result of domestic violence, a figure that includes male and non-spouse victims (NANE 1 Dec. 2005). NANE, a non-governmental organization (NGO) founded in 1994 and dedicated to fighting violence against women, operates a hotline, proposes anti-violence legislation, provides legal support, and runs public information and training sessions (ibid. n.d.).

An article in The Budapest Sun quotes a senior official of the Free Democrats, Klára Sándor, as stating that domestic violence is widespread in Hungary and often relegated to the private sphere, and that further legal and psychological assistance is needed to fully protect victims (16 Feb. 2006). Along with the Socialist Party, the Free Democrats form part of the Hungarian government's ruling coalition (BBC 14 June 2006).

State efforts

Hungary has ratified the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (UN 11 Aug. 2006), as well as the Convention's Optional Protocol (ibid. 5 June 2006). However, while the Hungarian Penal Code criminalizes actions that would constitute domestic violence, the Penal Code does not contain any sections that deal exclusively with the problem (stopVAW 17 May 2006).

The Hungarian Ministry of Youth, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities operates a 24-hour hotline for victims of domestic violence (The Budapest Sun 12 Jan. 2006; US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5).

There are conflicting reports on the number of shelters available to house female victims of domestic violence in Hungary. While Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005 notes that Hungary runs shelters for victims of domestic violence (ibid.), The Budapest Sun quotes the government as saying it planned to build a "rest-house" for victims in 2006 (12 Jan. 2006). In September 2005, the Hungarian government indicated that there were 26 shelters in Hungary specifically for mothers in "serious social crisis situations," most of which were operated by NGOs (Hungary 28 Sept. 2005, 57). According to Amnesty International (AI), there was one crisis centre for women victims of domestic violence in Budapest, but as of the end of 2005, it had been "partially closed" (23 May 2006). In the same report, AI notes that in 2005, no new women's shelters were built (23 May 2006).

In its 28 September 2005 submission to the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council entitled Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the government of Hungary outlines legislation that aims to protect women and children in situations of distress (54-56). The Act on the Protection of Children was amended on 1 January 2003 to allow for the provision of temporary housing for pregnant women in "crisis situations" (Hungary 28 Sept. 2005, 55). As of 1 January 2004, child protection centres were to be established in all cities with at least 40,000 inhabitants (ibid.). By 1 January 2005, all cities with more than 30,000 inhabitants had to provide temporary residences for pregnant women and women leaving maternity wards (ibid.).

Effectiveness of state efforts

Country Reports 2005 notes that many NGOs characterize Hungarian state efforts to protect victims of domestic violence as insufficient (US 8 Mar. 2006, Sec. 5). In its 2006 report on Hungary, Amnesty International indicates that a parliamentary resolution to combat domestic violence, passed in 2003 following public pressure, "remained largely unimplemented" (23 May 2006). In an interview with The Budapest Sun, the founder of the Women's and Children's Rights Research and Education Center Foundation, Krisztina Morvai, indicated that the government's self-imposed deadline of spring 2004 for action on improving victim access to protection, restraining orders and shelters, as well as on offering training to courts, child protection officers and the police had "come and gone, with little or no result" (12 May 2005).

According to NANE, cooperation between the state and NGOs on the issue of women's rights is minimal (NANE 1 Dec. 2005), although this assertion could not be corroborated by the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. In April 2005, representatives from AI, NANE and Habeas Corpus Working Group petitioned the Ministry of Justice to strengthen laws against domestic violence (AP 15 Apr. 2005). In November 2005, roughly 100 protesters, led by NANE, reportedly marched in front of the Hungarian Parliament to protest domestic violence and what they considered to be a lack of legislation to combat it (Reuters 28 Nov. 2005). According to MTI Hungarian News Agency, NANE also called for the adoption of anti-stalking laws, "in line with international standards" (25 Nov. 2005).

On 1 July 2006, a law on restraining orders came into effect (stopVAW 24 July 2006). This law allows any person in need of protection during criminal proceedings to apply for a restraining order against the alleged abuser for a period of between 10 and 30 days (ibid.). However, several NGOs have criticized this law (ibid. 18 May 2006; AI 23 May 2006; NANE/Habeas Corpus 1 July 2006). Criticisms include the fact that domestic violence is not specifically addressed by the law (ibid.; stopVAW 18 May 2006) and that restraining orders are handed down by a court rather than the police, thus precluding immediate protection (ibid.; AI 23 May 2006; NANE/Habeas Corpus 1 July 2006). In addition, restraining orders can only be issued if the victim is willing to testify against the aggressor (AI 23 May 2006), and orders cannot be extended beyond a 30-day maximum (ibid.; NANE/Habeas Corpus 1 July 2006; stopVAW 18 May 2006).

AI reports that in January 2005, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women found that Hungary had failed to provide sufficient protection to a woman and her children from the woman's abusive husband (23 May 2006). This case was significant because it marked the first time that the Committee had rendered such a decision based on the Convention's Optional Protocol (stopVAW 6 Apr. 2006). The woman had been turned away from a government shelter because it could not accommodate her children, one of whom was disabled; she could not obtain protection or a restraining order; and a local court ruled that she had to share ownership of her apartment with her husband (AI 23 May 2006; see also The Budapest Sun 12 Jan. 2006). The Committee reportedly ordered the government to take immediate steps to ensure that the woman and her children were protected (AI 23 May 2006). When the Hungarian government wrote a response to the complainant, reportedly stating that it had fulfilled its obligations and that it had no obligation to compensate the victim, NANE and Habeas Corpus Working Group submitted a letter to the Committee (stopVAW 6 Apr. 2006). Following this case, women's rights NGOs made the following recommendations at a joint press conference with the complainant:

Domestic violence should be a separate item in the Penal Code;

Victims should not be forced to take usual legal measures against these crimes (as this means their cases would be tried in a fragmented way often lasting for years);

Relevant legislative gaps should be entered into the Hungarian Penal Code (e.g. stalking and restrictive orders) (stopVAW 6 Apr. 2006).

For a list of 12 women's rights NGOs operating in Hungary, please consult the Stop Violence Against Women (stopVAW) Web site (24 Sept. 2004).

Human trafficking

The Associated Press (AP) reports that "[i]n early 2005, the Hungarian government opened a shelter for victims of human trafficking, who are estimated to number in the thousands" (29 June 2005).

While Hungary is said to be mainly a transit country for traffickers of human beings, it is also reportedly a source and destination country (Freedom House 6 July 2006; stopVAW 17 May 2006; see also US 5 June 2006, Sec. 6). According to the 2006 Trafficking in Persons Report released by the United States Department of State, Hungary is making serious efforts to reduce human trafficking, although these efforts remain insufficient (ibid.). Government efforts have included donating buildings to NGOs to be used as shelters for victims of trafficking, enacting a victim referral program and passing the Victim's Compensation Act, which allows victims of all types of crimes, including trafficking, to access medical, legal and social assistance (ibid.). However, while police referred 12 victims to a new trafficking shelter in 2005, the Trafficking in Persons Report notes that police frequently fail to arrest human traffickers "due to apathy, fear of retribution, or bribes" (ibid.).

In June 2005, Hungarian police reportedly arrested three men in eastern Hungary for forcing two underage girls into prostitution (AP 29 June 2005). Further or corroborating information on this event could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Amnesty International (AI). 23 May 2006. "Hungary." Amnesty International Report 2006. (POL 10/002/2006) [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]

Associated Press (AP). 29 June 2005. "Three Detained in Eastern Hungary for Forcing Underaged Girls into Prostitution." (Factiva)
_____. 15 April 2005. "Hungarian Human Rights Groups Call for Law Against Domestic Violence." (Factiva)

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 14 June 2006. "Country Profile: Hungary." [Accessed 30 Aug. 2006]

The Budapest Sun. 16 February 2006. Vol. 14, Issue 7. Christine Rotter. "'Acceptance' of Domestic Violence Blocks Equality." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]
_____. 12 January 2006. Vol. 14, Issue 1. Susanne Zolcer. "Women Left Without Legal Defense." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]
_____. 12 May 2005. Vol. 13, Issue 19. Kester Eddy. "In Need of Protection." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]

Freedom House. 6 July 2006. "Hungary." Freedom in the World 2005. [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]

Hungary. 28 September 2005. United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

Implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights: Third Periodic Reports Submited by States parties Under Articles 16 and 17 of the Covenant: Hungary. (E/C.12/HUN/3) (Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Web site) [Accessed 22 Aug. 2006]

MTI Hungarian News Agency [Budapest]. 25 November 2005. "Two-Week Campaign to Combat Violence Against Women Gets Underway." (Factiva)

NANE Women's Rights Association. 1 December 2005. "2005 Report to UN Division for Advancement of Women." (stopVAW Web site) [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]
_____. N.d. "Mission and Goals of NANE Women's Rights Association." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]

NANE Women's Rights Association/Habeas Corpus Working Group. 1 July 2006. "NGO Criticism About the Law." (stopVAW Web site) [Accessed 22 Aug. 2006]

Reuters. 28 November 2005. "Hungary, Factors to Watch, Nov. 28." (Factiva)

Stop Violence Against Women (stopVAW). 24 July 2006. "Restraining Order Entered into Force on 1 July 2006." [Accessed 21 Aug. 2006]
_____. 18 May 2006. Julia Spronz and Judit Herman. "Restraining Order Voted on by Hungarian Parliament." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]
_____. 17 May 2006. Julia Spronz and Judit Herman. "Legislative Trends and New Development." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]
_____. 6 April 2006. Judit Herman and Julia Spronz. "The Current State of the Hungarian CEDAW Case." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]
_____. 24 September 2004. "Women's NGOs." [Accessed 22 Aug. 2006]

United Nations (UN). 11 August 2006. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for the Advancement of Women. "CEDAW: States Parties." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]
_____. 5 June 2006. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for the Advancement of Women. "CEDAW: Signatures to and Ratifications of the Optional Protocol." [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]

United States (US). 5 June 2006. Department of State. "Hungary (Tier 2)." Trafficking in Persons Report [Accessed 18 Aug. 2006]
_____. 8 March 2006. Department of State. "Hungary." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2005 [Accessed 17 Aug. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral Sources, including: Foundation for the Women of Hungary (MONA) and NANE Women's Rights Association.

Internet Sites, including: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Center for Reproductive Rights, Council of Europe (COE), European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), European Union (EU), Foundation for the Women of Hungary (MONA), Human Rights Watch (HRW), Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), Institute for Human Sciences (IHS) [Vienna], International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), Ludwig Boltzmann Institut für Menschenrechte (BIM), Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Open Society Institute (OSI), Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Peacewomen.org, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), Transitions Online [Prague].

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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