Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August 2014, 13:59 GMT

Romania: State protection available to a female victim of domestic violence; requirements that must be met so that a father can leave the country with his child but without the child's mother

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 17 May 2004
Citation / Document Symbol ROM42612.FE
Reference 1
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Romania: State protection available to a female victim of domestic violence; requirements that must be met so that a father can leave the country with his child but without the child's mother, 17 May 2004, ROM42612.FE, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/41501c541c.html [accessed 20 August 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.

State protection available to female victims of domestic violence

According to Country Reports 2003, many Romanian human rights organizations and women's rights groups reported that domestic violence is common in Romania (25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 5). The same source also provided the results of a 2002 United Nations survey, which indicated that "45 percent of women have been verbally abused, 30 percent physically abused, and 7 percent sexually abused" (Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 5). The nongovernmental organization (NGO) Association for the Promotion of Women in Romania (APFR) reported that, though the rate of domestic violence fell between 2000 and 2002, incidents had become much more serious (n.d.). In early 2004, the Romanian President, Ion Iliescu, said that domestic violence was one of the five "evils" in Romania that the government needed to fight (Rompres 3 Jan. 2004).

Legal protection

Romania has been a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women since 1982 (Asylum Aid Mar. 2002, 160; EU 2003, 128). However, in 2002, Human Rights Watch indicated that the legal protection for victims of domestic violence was inadequate. Law No. 197/13 of November 2000 instituted modifications to some provisions of the Romanian Penal Code, such as introducing stricter penalties for perpetrators who rape or use physical violence against a family member (United Kingdom Oct. 2003, para. 6.76). Furthermore, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) indicated that the modified version of article 180 of the Penal Code, adopted in November 2002, "stipulates harsher punishment for bodily injuries when the victim is a member of the family" (UNIFEM n.d.; see also SEELINE n.d.). The new provisions include the definition of family member and "the interdiction for the aggressor to live with the family" (ibid.). The court can even order that the offender be separated from his family if his behaviour is considered a danger to other family members (ibid.). The Romanian Ministry of Justice reported that the courts had found 111 people guilty of domestic violence during the first half of 2002; 100 of them were men (United Kingdom Oct. 2003, para. 6.77).

In May 2003, the Romanian parliament passed a law on violence in the family (Law 217) (APFR n.d.; EU 2003; Country Reports 2003 25 Feb. 2004, Sec. 5). Proposed by the Association for the Promotion of Women in Romania (APFR), the law "institutes the duty of some social factors to legally intervene" in cases of domestic violence (APFR n.d.). The law came into force on 25 August 2003, and a new government agency is expected to be created in early 2004 to implement it (Astra n.d.). The new law defines domestic violence as "physical or verbal action deliberately perpetrated by a family member against another family member, resulting in physical, mental [or] sexual suffering, or material loss" (UNIFEM n.d.). It also "addresses the role of social workers, prevention measures, mediation, shelters, protection measures and sanctions" (ibid.). For more information on this law, please consult the attached document.

In 2004, the National Coalition of Non-Governmental Organizations Against Violence in the Family (CNIFIV), composed of 33 Romanian NGOs working on domestic violence issues, noted the following shortcomings of Law 217 (WAVE 2004).

First, Law 217 places the emphasis on "protecting and supporting the family and not on fighting violence or on victim protection." Second, the definition of domestic violence "does not relate to all aspects regarding the act of violence within the family as it is defined in international documents." For example, "[i]ntimidation, harassment, pursuit . . . [or] abusive entry in the victim's residence without his/her accord, although provided in the Penal Code do not have an aggravating character . . . and are not included as domestic violence facts." The Law also excludes relationships between exspouses. Third, the CNIFIV believes that the "[p]rovisions for physical protection for victims . . . are scarce" since the Law does not require aggressors to leave the residence or to keep a certain distance from their family – these orders can only be obtained after the aggressor has been convicted. Fourth, treatment for aggressors is optional. Fifth, there are no provisions regarding the obligation of the authorities (such as judges and police officers) to intervene in cases of domestic violence; the victim must leave the residence to seek protection elsewhere. According to the CNIFIV, the last three problems with Law 217 are the inequality between the two spouses in cases of intervention if the aggressor is not required to participate in the rehabilitation programs recommended by the court; the lack of a clearly defined role of the family counselling institution, which mediates cases of domestic violence; and lastly, the inability of shelters to provide complete confidentiality for the victims because of legal issues.

Police Protection

According to the United Kingdom's Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), many women do not trust the police because officers often believe that "the woman is the cause of the crisis and not a victim of her aggressive husband" (Oct. 2003, para. 6.77). This information could not be corroborated by the other sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Protection offered by other government organizations

"The Ministry of Health and Family has the responsibility to assist and protect victims of domestic violence" (United Kingdom Oct. 2003, para. 6.78). A centre for the protection of the victims of domestic violence, run by the Ministry of Health and Family, has offered constant support through its hotline since 1996 (ibid.). The hotline connects the victims by telephone or in person to police and counselling services (ibid.). Though the centre used to offer shelter, these services have not been offered by the government since 2000 because of a lack of resources; they are now offered only by NGOs (ibid.). "The National Institute for Mother and Child Protection offers [free] medical aid and protection for victims of domestic violence" (ibid., para. 6.79). According to the South Eastern European Women's Legal Initiative (SEELINE), local authorities also have the responsibility to offer protection and social services to female victims of domestic violence (n.d.).

On 31 March 2004, the Ministry of Labor, Social Solidarity and Family launched the National Agency for Family Protection (ANFP) (Rompres 31 Mar. 2004). The objective of this agency is to find better services for victims of domestic violence, as well as for aggressors (UNIFEM n.d.), in order to lower the number of cases of family violence and keep families together (Rompres 31 Mar. 2004). The ANFP also plans to develop local social services and provide financing for new shelters for victims of domestic violence ("a temporary solution") (ibid.).

Protection offered by non-governmental organizations

The IND indicated that there are six shelters for battered women and children administered by NGOs in the city of Bucharest (United Kingdom Oct. 2003, para. 6.79). Other shelters exist in the towns of Cluj, Constanta and Timisoara (UNIFEM n.d.). The latter is also home to the Romanian Association for Women's Promotion, which "has organised an important program for [free] support services for victims of violence in the family: legal and psychological advice, medical care, [and] accompanying the victim during the trial" (United Kingdom Oct. 2003, para. 6.79). UNIFEM added that there are other shelters for victims of domestic violence in Arges, Bistrita and Satu Mare (n.d.).

In January 2003, 30 Romanian NGOs joined to form the National Coalition for Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women (Astra n.d.). This coalition is dedicated to many projects, such as "minimum service standards for survivors; lobbying and advocacy; media code of ethics in reflecting violence against women's issues; legislative strategies; and institutional development" (ibid.).

Procedure for a parent to leave the country with his or her child

A consular representative at the Embassy of Romania in Ottawa provided the following information during an 11 May 2004 telephone interview.

Any Romanian citizen who wants to leave Romania must obtain a personal passport; this includes children (defined as any minor under 18 years of age for the purposes of this paragraph). If the two parents are married, the parent (mother or father) who leaves the country with the child must present customs with a notarized affidavit that attests to the other parent's consent. In the case of divorced parents, if the parent with custody of the child leaves the country, he or she does not need to show a notarized affidavit to customs, but if the parent does not have custody of the child, then he or she must obtain and present this affidavit. Although customs systematically requires that this affidavit be presented when applicable, Romania still has no specific law requiring a parent to present a notarized affidavit upon leaving the country with his or her child. The consular representative, however, was of the opinion that a law may be passed in the near future. She also said that, even though no such law exists, affidavits have been required by customs in cases like these for about two years.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

Association for the Promotion of Women in Romania (APFR). n.d. Women's Social Entitlements – Romania. [Accessed 6 May 2004]

Astra. n.d. Reproductive Health Services in Romania: Country Report. [Accessed 6 May 2004]

Asylum Aid, Refugee Women's Resource Project. March 2002. Romani Women from Central and Eastern Europe: A "Fourth World," or Experience of Multiple Discrimination. [Accessed 6 May 2004]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2003. 25 February 2004. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Accessed 30 Apr. 2004]

Embassy of Romania in Ottawa. 11 May 2004. Telephone interview with a consular representative.

European Union (EU). 2003. 2003 Regular Report on Romania's Progress Towards Accession. [Accessed 6 May 2004]

Human Rights Watch (HRW). 2002. Human Rights Watch World Report 2002. [Accessed 30 Apr. 2004]

Rompress. 31 March 2004. "Romania's Labor Ministry Launches National Agency for Family Protection." (FBIS-EEU-2004-0331 1 Apr. 2004/WNC)

_____. 3 January 2004. "Romania's Iliescu Says 2003 Year of ‘Consolidation of Several Positive Trends'." (FBIS-EEU-2004-0103 5 Jan. 2004/WNC)

South Eastern European Women's Legal Initiative (SEELINE). n.d. Maria Muga. Criminal Code Report: Romania. [Accessed 10 May 2004]

United Kingdom. October 2003. Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND). "Romania Country Assessment." [Accessed 6 May 2004]

United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). n.d. "Stop Violence Against Women." [Accessed 6 May 2004]

Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE). 2004. "NGOs' Recommendations to the Law Against Domestic Violence 2003." [Accessed 6 May 2004]

Attachment

Romania. 22 May 2003. Law to Prevent and Fight Against Domestic Violence. [Accessed 6 May 2004], 7 pp.

Additional Sources Consulted

Attempts to contact the following NGOs were unsuccessful:

– Association for the Promotion of Women in Romania (APFR)

– Association for Women's Advancement (IKON)

– Center for Women and Girls Victims of Violence (ARTEMIS)

– Liga Pro Europa

– National Association of University Women of Romania

– The National League of Women

– The National Union for Women's Rights in Romania

– National Women's Union of Romania

– Network of East-West Women

– Women in Development Women's Association of Romania (AFR)

– Women's InstituteWomen's League

– The Women's National Confederation from Romania

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), European Country of Origin Information (ECOI), European Standards and Ombudsman Institutions in Southeast Europe, Freedom House, Human Rights Internet, Human Rights Watch (HRW), Radio Free Europe, United States Department of State, World News Connection (WNC)

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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