Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 November 2014, 14:08 GMT

Poland: Resources available to victims of domestic violence (January 2005 - December 2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 30 December 2005
Citation / Document Symbol POL100813.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Poland: Resources available to victims of domestic violence (January 2005 - December 2005), 30 December 2005, POL100813.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f1480311.html [accessed 26 November 2014]
Comments Corrected version March 2007
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.

General Situation

A number of sources stated that domestic violence is of significant concern in Poland (Freedom House 11 Aug. 2005; Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; AI 2005; ibid. 2004). In its 2005 report on Poland, Amnesty International (AI) reiterated its 2004 claims that protection of women who were victims of domestic violence was often "inadequate," and that "[d]omestic violence was not effectively investigated or prosecuted" (ibid.; ibid. 2005). According to the Polish News Bulletin (PNB), rates of domestic violence in Poland were said to be increasing (14 July 2004).

In 2005, AI cited a 2004 report by the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee that warned of a high rate of domestic violence against women in a country where protection measures, such as restraining orders or temporary arrests, were not at an acceptable level (AI 2005). The Committee apparently also suggested that there was a lack of women's shelters in many localities and that police officers had insufficient training to tackle domestic violence (ibid.).

Societal Attitudes

Country Reports 2004 explained that the incidence of domestic violence abuse, such as the 80,185 cases recorded by police in 2003, was probably significantly underreported because victims "usually refused to admit abuse even to themselves," and the topic was particularly taboo in more rural areas (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

Legislation

Country Reports 2004 mentioned that spousal rape was treated as any other type of rape and that physical abuse was illegal (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). Citing Polish NGOs, Country Reports 2004 added that perpetrators of domestic violence were often dealt with leniently, with many receiving light verdicts or suspended sentences (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

In 2004, sources mentioned a draft law proposed by the Office of the Government Plenipotentiary for Equal Gender Status (OGP) (PNB 14 July 2004; Poland 13 Dec. 2004). Among other provisions, the law would allow the eviction of violent offenders (ibid.), empower courts to isolate offenders from their victims (ibid.; PNB 14 July 2004), define domestic violence as physical, psychological and/or sexual abuse, plus "other harm to human dignity," while strengthening the Criminal, Family, and Criminal Procedure Codes to deal with perpetrators of domestic violence (ibid.).

"The Countering of Domestic Violence Act" (Journal of Laws. No. 180, pos. 1493) (ibid. 1 Dec. 2005) was made law in September 2005 by the Polish government (ibid. 7 Sept. 2005). Reportedly created in response to an increasing concern over the incidence of domestic violence in Poland, this new law provides for the medical, psychological, legal and social counselling of victims, in addition to "crisis intervention and support, protection against further abuses, as well as shelter for victims at a special facility" (ibid.). The new law, which is to be implemented at the local level of government, also gives more power to courts to separate victims from offenders, and includes sections on the required penalties of perpetrators of domestic violence (ibid.). It was unclear whether the law incorporated all the provisions of the draft law on domestic violence that were detailed in the above paragraph.

In November 2005, the OGP was disbanded by the new Polish government (ILGA 8 Nov. 2005; AI 25 Nov. 2005). According to AI, this jeopardized Poland's ability to deal fairly with cases of gender discrimination, and suddenly made Poland "the only European Union (EU) country without a statutory equality watchdog" (ibid.).

Government

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration's "Office of the Victims' Rights Spokesman" supervised law enforcement agencies and the judiciary to make sure that the rights of victims of domestic violence were respected, and that victims were provided legal and psychological services (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

In 2004, Women's rights groups reportedly criticized the lack of state-funded shelters for female victims of violence in Poland (ibid.). In a report presented at the winter 2005 Special Session of the Commission on the Status of Women Beijing +10 in New York, Polish women's non-governmental organizations (NGOs) said they felt that domestic violence remained "marginalized" in Poland and that the government lacked focus and sufficient action in dealing with the phenomenon (Beijing +10 28 Feb.-11 Mar. 2005).

Police

According to Country Reports 2004, the "blue card" system used by police to record domestic abuse was less effective than anticipated due in large part to the program's lack of funding (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). Further or corroborating information on the level of protection provided by law enforcement agencies to victims of domestic violence could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

There are a number of NGO centres throughout Poland to assist victims of domestic violence, to "provide prevention treatment and counselling" to perpetrators, and train professionals who work with victims (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). The following NGOs, taken from the Website of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (PeaceWomen.org n.d.), provide assistance to Polish women:

– BORIS – Support Office for the Movement of Self-Help Initiatives [Warsaw]

– Cracow Committee for Human Rights and Citizen Rights [Krakow]

– Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning [Warsaw]

– Pro Femina: Defends Women's Rights [Warsaw]

– PSF Women's Centre [Warsaw]

– The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR, Poland) [Warsaw]

– Women's Rights Centre [Warsaw].

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). 25 November 2005. "Poland: LGBT Rights under Attack." [Accessed 14 Dec. 2005]
_____. 2005. "Poland." Amnesty International Report 2005. [Accessed 7 Dec. 2005]
_____. 2004. "Poland." Amnesty International Report 2004. [Accessed 7 Dec. 2005]

Beijing +10. 28 February – 11 March 2005. "Violence Against Women." Special Session of the Commission on the Status of Women Beijing +10. [Accessed 14 Dec. 2005]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. "Poland." United States Department of State. [Accessed 8 Dec. 2005]

Freedom House. 11 August 2005. "Poland." Freedom in the World 2005. [Accessed 14 Dec. 2005].

International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA). 8 November 2005. "Protest Action – Poland's Equality Body is Under Threat." [Accessed 14 Dec. 2005]

PeaceWomen.org (Women's International League for Peace and Freedom). N.d. "Poland." [Accessed 14 Dec. 2005]

Poland. 13 December 2004. In United Nations (UN). Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). "Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women." [Accessed 14 Dec. 2005]

Polish News Bulletin (PNB). 1 December 2005. "Newly Binding Laws." (Factiva)
_____. 7 September 2005. "Family Affairs." (Factiva)
_____. 14 July 2004. "Family Safety." (Factiva)

Additional Sources Consulted

The Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning [Warsaw], Pro Femina [Warsaw], the PSF Women's Centre/Polish Feminist Association [Warsaw], and the Women's Rights Centre [Warsaw] did not respond to requests for information within time constraints.

Internet Sites, including: The Economist [London], European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Helsinki Federation (IHF), Network of East-West Women, Niebieska Linia, Open Society Institute, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), Polish Federation for Women and Family Planning, Polish Helsinki Federation, Women's Rights Centre, Women Watch.

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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