Covering events from January - December 2004

Concerns about violence against women, among other issues, were raised with the Latvian authorities by a UN monitoring committee and the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights after examination of Latvia's human rights obligations.

Violence against women in the home

In July the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women considered Latvia's initial, second and third periodic reports on its implementation of the UN Women's Convention. The Committee noted a number of positive aspects, including progress in legislative reform. However, among its areas of concern were the lack of sufficient data and information on the prevalence of violence against women, particularly domestic violence, and of comprehensive legislation on such violence. These deficiencies appeared to indicate that violence against women, particularly in the family, was considered a private matter between the individuals involved. The Committee was also concerned that marital rape was not a separate offence in the criminal code.

Among its recommendations, the Committee urged Latvia to adopt legislation on domestic violence and ensure that the perpetrators of violence against women were brought to justice. Women who had experienced violence should be provided with immediate means of redress and protection, including protection or restraining orders, and with access to legal aid. There should be sufficient numbers of shelters to meet the needs of women at risk of violence in the home. Marital rape should be criminalized as a separate offence. The Committee also recommended that law enforcement and other officials receive training to sensitize them to all forms of violence against women. The Committee additionally urged Latvia to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention, which provides a procedure for the submission of individual complaints to the Committee.

The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights also raised concerns about domestic violence in a report, published in February, of his visit to Latvia in October 2003. He noted reports that such violence was relatively common, and that the courts and police appeared to play down its seriousness, treating it as of private concern only.

Trafficking of women

Both the Committee and the Commissioner, while recognizing the legislative and other measures that the government had already taken, expressed concern about the continued trafficking of women and girls for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The Committee called, among a number of other recommendations, for the full implementation and funding of a national strategy to combat trafficking in women and girls. It urged that Latvia take action towards improving the economic situation of women, to eliminate their vulnerability to traffickers, and introduce rehabilitation and reintegration measures for women and girl survivors of trafficking, including special shelters.

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