Last Updated: Tuesday, 24 May 2016, 11:51 GMT

Latvia: State protection available to female victims of violence (October 2000 - November 2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 29 December 2005
Citation / Document Symbol LVA100687.E
Reference 2
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Latvia: State protection available to female victims of violence (October 2000 - November 2005), 29 December 2005, LVA100687.E, available at: [accessed 25 May 2016]
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.


A number of sources have referred to domestic violence as a significant problem concerning women in Latvia (Baltic Daily News 8 Oct. 2003; COE 12 Feb. 2004; LNA 13 Mar. 2000; Freedom House 2002), and that it was frequently underreported (ibid.). Statistics on rates of domestic violence are scarce (ibid.; UN 14 July 2004), and could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate for this Response.


In his report on a visit to Latvia in October 2003, the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Alvaro Gil-Robles, noted that societal protest against domestic violence in Latvia is minimal, and that many female victims of violence do not know where they can go to seek help (COE Nov. 2002). Freedom House added that women are largely unaware of their legal rights (2002).

Freedom House noted that domestic violence in Latvia is often connected to alcohol abuse (2002). A 13 March 2000 article by the Latvian News Agency (LNA) cited poverty, high unemployment, and strained interpersonal relationships as contributors to domestic violence in Latvia.


There are no laws in Latvia that deal specifically with domestic violence (UN 27 Feb. 2003; COE Nov. 2002) nor are there any laws that criminalize marital rape (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5). In theory, rape and sexual assault between married partners should be prosecuted and sentenced as non-marital rape or sexual assault would be; in practice, however, the COE stated that these marital crimes are not brought before Latvian courts (Nov. 2002). According to a United Nations (UN) report, psychological violence against women was not recognized by Latvian law (14 July 2004). However, Latvia has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (UN 18 Mar. 2005; AI 2005).


Country Reports 2004 and Freedom House noted that Latvian women were frequently unwilling to bring cases of domestic violence before the courts (Country Reports 2004 28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5; Freedom House 2002). The Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) stressed that in order to fully comply with the Convention, which Latvia has signed (UN 18 Mar. 2005), Latvian judges should be given the ability to issue protection or restraining orders in cases of domestic violence (UN 14 July 2004).


The Council of Europe (COE) Commissioner for Human Rights found that women victims of violence were often unwilling to make a complaint with the police, which, along with the judiciary, "apparently tend[s] to play down the seriousness of domestic violence and to treat it as a private matter for the family to deal with" (12 Feb. 2004). Freedom House stated that police were "sometimes reluctant" to arrest perpetrators (2002). The Commissioner went on to say that Latvian police and courts would benefit from sensitivity training regarding domestic violence (COE 12 Feb. 2004; UN 14 July 2004). In a 14 July 2004 press release, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) stated that violence against women was not properly dealt with by law enforcement bodies, who often failed to act in a timely manner in these cases (ibid.). The press release went on to say, however, that police officers had cooperated with crisis centres (Skalbes) in campaigns to raise awareness of family violence and participated in seminars; these meetings made it easier for abused women to contact female police officers with expertise in this area (ibid.).


While noting that both the government and the non-governmental sectors had yet to come up with any major initiatives to implement domestic violence legislation, the Council of Europe (COE) said, in a November 2002 report, that the Latvian Ministry of Interior was cooperating with non-governmental organizations to train persons who deal with domestic violence every day. According to the Chair of the Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee of the Latvian Parliament, Ina Druviete, the National Human Rights Office of Latvia apparently received few complaints of family violence (UN 14 July 2004).

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

According to Country Reports 2004, Latvia had no shelters specifically for female victims of violence, nor were there any "specific rape or assault hotlines," although there were two crisis hotlines run by NGOs (28 Feb. 2005, Sec. 5).

The Website of the Soros Foundation of Latvia listed several initiatives operating in 2001 out of the Woman's Program, which had a total budget of US$27,000 [or approximately CAN$41,000 (1 July 2001)] (Soros 2001). Among these initiatives were:

– Crisis Center "Skalbes," an interdisciplinary centre which sought to prevent violence against women as well as educate female police officers on how to better assist women and girls who were victims of rape and violence;

– NGO "Rural Women Against Violence," which developed a shelter and worked with female victims of violence;

– Latgale Center for Reproductive and Psychiatric Health "Valentia," which trained specialists and created an "interdisciplinary team" whose mission was to prevent domestic violence (ibid.).

In a November 2002 report, the COE added that the "Centre 'Skalbes'" organized seminars to train district attorneys, judges, police officers, medical doctors, psychologists, and social workers on domestic violence. These seminars are said to lead to biweekly professional working groups which, in turn, aim to eventually develop domestic violence legislation (COE Nov. 2002).

In October 2000, the Soros Foundation in Latvia reportedly distributed Latvian- and Russian-language pamphlets entitled "Know Your Rights" on the subject of domestic violence (LNA 13 Oct. 2000). The pamphlet was distributed in "crisis centers, ambulances, youth centers, police precincts, Latvia's municipalities, social insurance agencies, the Non-Governmental Organizations Center in Riga and regions, the National Human Rights Office and libraries nationwide (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.


Amnesty International (AI). 2005. "Latvia." Amnesty International Report 2005. [Accessed 24 Nov. 2005]

Baltic Daily News [Riga]. 8 October 2003. "Latvian Parlt. Sets Up Gender Equality Subcommittee." (Dialog)

Bank of Canada. 29 June 2001. "Currency Conversion Results." [Accessed 23 Nov. 2005]

Council of Europe (COE). 12 February 2004. Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights. Report by Mr. Alvaro Gil-Robles, Commissioner for Human Rights, on his Visit to Latvia 5-8 October 2003. [Accessed 24 Nov. 2005]
_____. November 2002. "Latvia." Legislation in the Member States of the Council of Europe in the Field of Violence Against Women. [Accessed 24 Nov. 2005]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004. 28 February 2005. "Latvia." United States Department of State. [Accessed 24 Nov. 2005]

Freedom House. 2002. "Latvia." Nations in Transit 2002. [Accessed 24 Feb. 2005]

Latvian News Agency (LNA). 13 October 2000. Dace Bria. "Informative Booklet 'Domestic Violence' Released." (Factiva)
_____. 13 March 2000. Jana Gavare. "Latvian Parliamentarians Will Discuss Prevention of Domestic Violence." (Factiva)

The Soros Foundation Latvia. 2001. "Grants Awarded in 2001." [Accessed 23 Nov. 2005]

United Nations (UN). 18 March 2005. Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW). "CEDAW: States Parties." [Accessed 23 Dec. 2005]
_____. 14 July 2004. "Women's Anti-Discrimination Committee Experts Urge Latvia to Update Laws to Protect Women from Domestic Violence." [Accessed 22 Nov. 2005]
_____. 27 February 2003. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). (E/CN/2003/75/Add1). "Latvia." 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. [Accessed 24 Nov. 2005]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet Sites, including: Baltic News Service (BNS), The Baltics Worldwide, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Human Rights Institute of the University of Latvia, Human Rights Watch (HRW), International Helsinki Federation (IHF), Latvian Centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Studies, The Network of East/West Women,, Women Watch, 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 Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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