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Slovakia: State protection offered to victims of domestic violence (arrests and convictions, sentences, government funded agencies or NGOs, help available to victim and training programs for law enforcement agents) (2003-2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 17 January 2006
Citation / Document Symbol SVK100783.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Slovakia: State protection offered to victims of domestic violence (arrests and convictions, sentences, government funded agencies or NGOs, help available to victim and training programs for law enforcement agents) (2003-2005), 17 January 2006, SVK100783.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f147a711.html [accessed 29 December 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.

Fenestra, a Slovak non-governmental organization which runs a crisis centre (Initiative Fifth Woman n.d.a) and acts as the monitoring entity for the Violence Against Women campaign of the Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, indicated that women who are ethnic minorities are facing "grave human rights violations" and that as many as 40 p. cent of women may have been victims of domestic violence (4 Feb. 2005). No corroboration of this statistic was found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, Eva Sopkova, director of the nongovernmental organization Pro Familia, reported that polls indicate that one woman out of three "becomes a victim of violence" (CTK Daily News 15 Nov. 2005) and deputy prime minister, Pal Csaky, stated that one women in five is victim of violence (Europe Information 23 Apr. 2005).

Legislation

Laws criminalizing domestic violence and sexual assault exist in Slovakia as well as orders of protection, "intended to keep the abuser away from the victim" (The State Journal-Register 22 May 2005; see also Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). Country Reports 2004 stated that rape, including spousal rape, is illegal and that the government worked effectively to counter it (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

In 2002, changes to the penal code brought stricter sentences for crimes committed against family members or people living in the same household (Fenestra 4 Feb. 2005; Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). Changes were also made to the Penal Court rules of procedure, as well as to the Civil Code and the Civil Court rules of procedure (Fenestra 4 Feb. 2005). For a detailed look at the changes that came into force in 2002 and 2003, please consult the attached 4 February 2005 Fenestra monitoring document.

State measures (arrests and convictions, sentences, government funded agencies)

Country Reports 2004 stated that domestic violence crimes are underreported, but that as public awareness grows, statistics reflect a higher proportion of reporting (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). During 2003, Slovak police "handled over 1,000 cases of domestic violence" (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

According to Polly Poskin, head of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault who trained NGO personnel in shelters in Slovakia, many victims do not file a complaint when faced with the "lack of interest" of police officers (The State Journal-Register 22 May 2005). As well, the lack of cooperation between officers and prosecutors often causes prosecutions to fail (ibid.).

The deputy prime minister of Slovakia acknowledged that violence against women is still a problem and that a "national strategy against domestic violence" was adopted, as well as stricter criminal laws and that his government wanted to improve statistical reporting on domestic violence (Europe Information 23 Apr. 2005).

An "Office for Equal Opportunities" makes recommendations to the government on legislative changes and for the preparation of a "National Action Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women" (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

NGOs

The daily CTK explained that since the end of the Soviet era, the number of women who have been requesting aid from NGOs in cases of domestic violence has increased (15 Nov. 2005).

The executive director of the NGO Victim Support Slovakia, founded in 1999, stated that the government "has begun to cooperate with [NGOs]" (SITA 7 Dec. 2004). She also indicated that new regulations oblige police officers to inform victims of the possibilities of professional counselling (ibid.).

In 2001, some NGOs formed a group called "Initiative Fifth Woman" and their campaign against violence against women, based on the message "every fifth woman is abused," remained active in 2003 (Initiative Fifth Woman n.d.c). The group of NGOs worked on proposals to change domestic violence legislation and lobbied for public awareness of the issue (Initiative Fifth Woman n.d.b). Workshops are organized for professionals who work with victims of domestic violence, including police officers (ibid.).

The NGO members of Initiative Fifth Woman are: the NGO Alliance of Women of Slovakia (which operates a helpline and provides legal counselling), Aspekt (which publishes a feminist magazine and conducts various educational workshops), Fenestra (which runs a crisis centre that offers many services to domestic violence victims, including legal counsel and shelter), Eset (which provides assistance to victims and does public education on gender violence), Pro Choice (which has "elimination and prevention of violence against women" as one of its main goals) and ProFamilia (which also runs a crisis-counselling centre and has been active in influencing law-making in the field of domestic violence) (Initiative Fifth Woman n.d.a).

Initiative Fifth Woman's Website indicated that the NGOs Fenestra and ProFamilia are able to provide help to victims "from the first contact through the whole process up to divorce" (n.d.a). It also reported that both NGOs were developing international standard shelter facilities in Eastern Slovakia (Initiative Fifth Woman n.d.a).

Polly Poskin, head of the Illinois Coalition Against Sexual Assault trained NGO personnel in Slovakia who work in the "up to eight domestic violence/sexual assault shelters" (The State Journal-Register 22 May 2005). What is considered the "central shelter" is located in Nitra, a town of 90,000 inhabitants (ibid.).

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.

Attachment

Fenestra. 4 February 2005. "Slovakia." (Stop Violence Against Women). [Accessed 13 Dec. 2005]

References

Country Reports 2004. 28 February 2005. "Slovakia." US Department of State. [Accessed 2 Dec. 2005]

CTK Daily News. 15 November 2005. "Traditional Stances on Genders Lead to Violence – Experts." (Factiva)

Europe Information. 23 April 2005. "Bratislava Seeks Seat of the European Gender Institute." (Factiva)

Fenestra. 4 February 2005. "Slovakia." (Stop Violence Against Women). [Accessed 13 Dec. 2005]

Initiative Fifth Woman. N.d.a. "NGO-Members of the Initiative Fifth Woman." [Accessed 2 Dec. 2005]
_____. N.d.b. "Activities of Initiative Fifth Woman." [Accessed 15 Dec. 2005]
_____. N.d.c. "Initiative Fifth Woman." [Accessed 15 Dec. 2005]

SITA [Bratislava]. 7 December 2004. "Slovak and Austrian Experts Hold Victim Protection Conference." (Factiva)

The State Journal-Register. 22 May 2005. Mary Massingale. "Victims' Advocate Fights Battle Abroad; Takes on Domestic Violence in Slovakia." (Factiva)

Additional Sources Consulted

Oral sources: Initiative Fifth Woman and Fenestra did not provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: Aspekt, Open Society Foundation Slovakia, ProChoice.sk, Slovak National Centre For Human Rights (SNCHR), the Slovak Republic Government Office, United Nations' Division for the Advancement of Women, Victim Support Slovakia.

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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