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Czech Republic: State protection and services available to female victims of domestic violence, including whether the criminal code has been amended to make domestic violence a crime (2003-2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 17 February 2006
Citation / Document Symbol CZE100730.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Czech Republic: State protection and services available to female victims of domestic violence, including whether the criminal code has been amended to make domestic violence a crime (2003-2005), 17 February 2006, CZE100730.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/45f1472420.html [accessed 28 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.

General Information

Results of a 2003 survey conducted by the Czech Academy of Sciences revealed that 38 per cent of women in the Czech Republic had experienced violence from a partner (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; see also CTK Business News 18 Feb. 2004; Prague Post 26 Feb. 2004). Twenty-three per cent of the women polled said they had had their hair pulled, arms twisted and had been pushed by their partners, while 20 per cent had been attacked by both a partner and by another person; 41 per cent of women had felt that their lives were in danger during acts of domestic violence (ibid.; CTK Business News 18 Feb. 2004). In another poll, undertaken for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, close to one in ten persons believed that domestic violence was a common phenomenon (CTK Daily News 7 Sept. 2004). Police revealed that half of the cases of murdered women involve a partner (ibid.), though the deputy director of the Czech chapter of Amnesty International (AI) told Czech media that 70 per cent of murdered women are killed by their partners (CTK Business News 7 Mar. 2004). ROSA, an organization which assists victims of abuse (Radio Prague 11 Nov. 2005), pointed out that between January and September 2003 five women had been killed by their partner in the city of Prague (population one million) (CTK Daily News 26 Nov. 2003), while between November 2004 and December 2005 ten women in the country had been murdered by a partner (Radio Prague 25 Nov. 2005).

In its third periodic report submitted to the United Nations (UN) Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Czech government observed that there was "significant tolerance of [...] violence in private relationships" (Czech Rep. 7 Sept. 2004, 13). A 2001 survey by the agency STEM showed that more than one-quarter of those polled believed domestic violence was an issue that should be resolved within the family unit and that society should not interfere (CTK Daily News 24 June 2003). The issue, however, was receiving more public attention than in the past as a result of publicity campaigns by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (IHF 23 June 2004; see also CIVICUS 2005; CTK Daily News 7 Sept. 2004) and media reports on specific cases (IHF 23 June 2004).

State Policies

In February 2004, the president of the Czech Republic signed into law a bill amending the country's criminal code to qualify domestic violence as a crime (BBC 13 Feb. 2004; CTK Business News 18 Feb. 2004). According to both Country Reports 2004 and the Czech embassy in Ottawa, the amendment went into effect in June 2004 (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; Czech Rep. 16 Jan. 2006b; see also BBC 13 Feb. 2004; CTK Daily News 23 Apr. 2004). The revised code stipulates that perpetrators of domestic violence can face up to three years' imprisonment, and as many as eight years of incarceration if the act is found to have been especially brutal or to have been carried out for an extensive period of time or against several victims (BBC 13 Feb. 2004; Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). Acts of domestic violence committed against persons younger than 18, pregnant women or those who are ill, handicapped or elderly would be subject to stiffer sentences (ibid.; BBC 13 Feb. 2004). Prior to the amended code's criminalization of domestic violence, such acts were treated as misdemeanours (CIVICUS 2005; Prague Post 26 Feb. 2004) or assaults (CTK Business News 13 Feb. 2004).

In its 2004 report to CEDAW, the Czech government outlined a number of efforts it had undertaken to address the issue of domestic violence. Among them were public awareness campaigns, begun in 2003, to encourage people between the ages of 15 and 25 to reject the first signs of violence in a relationship (7 Sept. 2004, 12). Other educational efforts included training police officers on how to deal with crime victims, specialized seminars for police on violence against women, a special bulletin on the theme of domestic violence distributed to all police departments, as well as training sessions on domestic violence organized with the help of two NGOs for social workers at the Counselling Centre for Refugees (Czech Rep. 7 Sept. 2004, 12). In the area of rehabilitation, the Ministry of Health was preparing diagnostic standards for health care professionals handling the treatment and rehabilitation of victims of domestic violence (ibid.). The government also announced that on 1 January 2004 the office of the public prosecutor would begin compiling statistics on crimes associated with domestic violence (ibid., 16).

The government indicated in its report to CEDAW that a new definition of rape would be included in the criminal code effective 1 January 2005, though rape within partnered relationships would not be introduced as a separate crime (ibid., 17, 18). Nonetheless, a spouse, partner or other family member could be considered a rape victim under the new criminal definition of rape, which reads "'[w]hoever compels another person to have sexual relations, either through violence or the threat of violence or the threat of other harm, or whoever abuses a person's defencelessness to commit such an act, will be punished by a prison term of from six months to five years'" (ibid., 18). However, in 16 January 2006 correspondence to the Research Directorate, a consular official at the embassy of the Czech Republic in Ottawa indicated that, while the House of Representatives had approved the amended criminal code that would include the new definition of rape, the committees of the Senate were considering additional changes to the code. Thus, it was unclear what the wording of the final version of the criminal code, and of the new definition of rape, would be (Czech Rep. 16 Jan. 2006a).

Police Response and Access to Justice

The United States (US) Department of State related that, between the time the amended criminal code qualifying domestic violence as a crime went into effect in June 2004 and December 2004, police had received 17 reports of domestic violence, 10 of which were subsequently investigated (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). However, no prosecutions had taken place (ibid.). In a statement, the Czech government disputed the number of cases of domestic violence cited by the US Department of State in its 2004 Country Report (CTK Daily News 1 Mar. 2005), though no further information on the accuracy of the number could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. According to the survey conducted by the Czech Academy of Sciences, about nine per cent of cases of domestic violence are reported to police, while just one-third of those are prosecuted, and every tenth perpetrator is sentenced (CTK Business News 18 Feb. 2004). The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women (hereafter Special Rapporteur) noted in her 2003 report to the UN Commission on Human Rights that the police, the public prosecutor's office and the courts in the Czech Republic did not have a separate department to deal exclusively with domestic violence (UN 27 Feb. 2003, 309). The Special Rapporteur added that authorities did not have the proper tools to respond to domestic violence, and that when police were approached, there was often a lack of understanding or willingness to deal with the situation (ibid.). This was particularly the case for Roma women, who were unwilling to approach police for assistance as a result of "systemic police discrimination" against Roma communities (ibid., 310).

The Ministry of Interior indicated in its 28 April 2005 report to the UN Division of the Advancement of Women that police in the cities of Ostrava and Brno had set up programs to "deliver more effective help to victims of domestic violence" (Czech Rep.). While it was too early to comment on the outcome of these programs, the Ministry remarked that the expansion of the initiative to other regions of the country was a possibility (ibid. 28 Apr. 2005). Some specialized personnel of the police force were trained to deal with cases of domestic violence (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; UN 27 Feb. 2003, 309). Other training programs to aid police in the identification and investigation of acts of domestic violence were also in place (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). In her 2003 report, the Special Rapporteur observed that police academies had introduced instructional material on domestic violence (UN 27 Feb. 2003, 309). Meanwhile, NGOs reported that police were working more regularly with welfare and medical service providers who treat victims of domestic violence (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). The White Circle of Safety (Bily Kruh Bezpeci, BKB), an NGO that provides services to victims of abuse, explained in a report covering its activities for the period between 1998 and 2001 that it had launched a project with police in Ostrava to study instances of domestic violence in the area – the first project of its kind in the Czech Republic, one aimed at mapping out the problem (BKB n.d.).

CTK Daily News reported on 7 December 2005 that the Chamber of Deputies had voted in favour of a bill which would allow police to remove perpetrators of domestic violence from their home for a period of up to 10 days. If approved by the Senate and signed by the president, the bill would come into effect on 1 January 2007 (CTK Daily News 7 Dec. 2005). A spokesperson for the White Circle of Safety explained that, under the current law, it is up to the victims of domestic violence to seek refuge, so if they choose to remain at home with the perpetrators, they are likely less willing to cooperate with police (ibid. 3 Feb. 2005). The Czech government explained in its 2004 report to CEDAW that criminal prosecution for acts of domestic violence required the consent of the victim, who had 30 days from the time of the attack to provide his or her consent for prosecution (Czech Rep. 7 Sept. 2004, 13-14). The Czech government acknowledged that the time constraints associated with consenting to prosecution and the inability to compel removal of an abuser from a joint residence resulted in "inadequate protection" available to victims of domestic violence (ibid.). Domestic violence hotline operators indicated to CTK Daily News that women often did not give consent to police to arrest perpetrators of domestic violence because they feared retribution from their spouse (24 June 2003). According to the Czech Ministry of Interior, the proposed bill would serve to protect victims and prevent perpetrators from attacking again (Czech Rep. 28 Apr. 2005). Further information on the proposed bill could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

Services Available to Victims of Domestic Violence

There were, according to the US Department of State and the Special Rapporteur, 107 state-supported shelters for victims of abuse, though more were needed to meet the demand (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; UN 27 Feb. 2003, 309). Victims of domestic violence had access at the local level to NGOs that provided medical and social assistance (ibid.; Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5), as well as psychological counselling through hotlines and crisis centres (ibid.). For example, the NGO ROSA operated a telephone helpline along with three shelters open to abused women in different parts of the country (Radio Prague 11 Nov. 2005). Another organization, the BKB, offered a 24-hour telephone hotline (BKB n.d.), in addition to other services, which include the assistance of lawyers and psychologists, emotional and moral support, and counselling (FemCities n.d.). BKB operated advice centres in Prague, Brno, Olomouc, Ostrava, Pardubice, and Plzeò (ibid.). In 2003, ROSA commented to the media that assistance to victims of domestic violence was adequate in the Czech Republic, but the root causes of the violence were not being addressed (CTK Daily News 26 Nov. 2003).

Further information on services available to women who have experienced domestic violence 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

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 13 February 2004. "Czech President Signs into Law Bill on Domestic Violence." (Factiva)

CIVICUS. 2005. Tereza Vajdová. "An Assessment of Czech Civil Society in 2004: After Fifteen Years of Development." CIVICUS Civil Society Index Report for the Czech Republic. [Accessed 3 Jan. 2005]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 Feb. 2005. United States Department of State. "Czech Republic." [Accessed 9 Dec. 2005]

Czech News Agency (CTK, Business News). 7 March 2004. "AI Launches Campaign Against Violence Against Women." (Factiva)
_____. 18 February 2004. "Almost Two Thirds of Czech Women Experience Violence – Press." (Factiva)
_____. 13 February 2004. "Domestic Violence Has So Far Been Prosecuted Only as Assault, But Sometimes It Is Prosecuted ..." (Factiva)

Czech News Agency (CTK, Daily News). 7 December 2005. "Chamber Supports Stricter Punishment of Domestic Violence." (Factiva)
_____. 1 March 2005. "Czech Rep Recognizes Shortcomings in Court System, Romany Position." (Factiva)
_____. 3 February 2005. "Physical Domestic Violence Prevails in Czech Rep – Poll." (Factiva)
_____. 7 September 2004. "Ten Percent of Czechs Believe Domestic Violence Frequent – Poll." (Factiva)
_____. 23 April 2004. "Two U.S. Women Lawyers Urge Judges to Fight Domestic Violence." (Factiva)
_____. 26 November 2003. "Figures of Victims Appeal to Parliament for Domestic Violence Law." (Factiva)
_____. 24 June 2003. "NGOs Want New Laws Against Domestic Violence." (Factiva)

Czech Republic. 16 January 2006a. Embassy of the Czech Republic, Ottawa. Correspondence from an official.
_____. 16 January 2006b. Embassy of the Czech Republic, Ottawa. Telephone interview with an official.
_____. 28 April 2005. Ministry of Interior. "Materials of the Ministry of Interior of the Czech Republic Regarding the Violence Against Women in the Czech Republic." [Accessed 3 Jan. 2006]
_____. 7 September 2004. In United Nations (UN). Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Consideration of Reports Submitted by States Parties Under Article 18 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Third Periodic Report of States Parties: Czech Republic. (CEDAW/C/CZE/3) [Accessed 9 Dec. 2005]

FemCities. N.d. "Portraits: White Circle of Security." [Accessed 17 Jan. 2006]

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). 23 June 2004. "Czech Republic." Human Rights in the OSCE Region: Europe, Central Asia and North America, Report 2004 (Events of 2003). [Accessed 9 Dec. 2005]

The Prague Post. 26 February 2004. Mindy Kay Bricker. "Survey Finds Abuse of Women Rampant." [Accessed 13 Dec. 2005]

Radio Prague. 25 November 2005. Daniela Lazarova. "Silent Witnesses Bring Awareness of Domestic Violence." [Accessed 17 Jan. 2006]

United Nations (UN). 27 February 2003. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Integration of the Human Rights of Women and the Gender Perspective: Violence Against Women. Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy, Submitted in Accordance with Commission on Human Rights Resolution 2002/52. (E/CN.4/2003/75/Add1) [Accessed 17 Jan. 2006]

White Circle of Safety (BKB). N.d. "Domestic Violence and the White Circle of Safety." (International Victimology Website). [Accessed 17 Jan. 2006]

Additional Sources Consulted

Five oral sources did not provide information within the time constraints of this Response.

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Czech Ministry of Interior, Czech Ministry of Justice, Elektra, European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control (HEUNI), Les Pénélopes, Stop Violence against Women (StopVAW), United Kingdom Home Office, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, World Conference on Prevention of Family Violence 2005.

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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