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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Legislative loopholes leave victims of gender-based violence exposed, it was reported in Parliament

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    Need to change the legal framework Service during today's meeting of the Human Rights Committee

    The need for a change in the legal framework was pointed out by the Legal Service during today's meeting of the Parliamentary Human Rights Committee, following reports by Andris Andronikou, Scientific Director of SPAVO (Association for the Prevention and Treatment of Violence in the Family) that, while victims of domestic violence are accommodated in the shelter of the Association, decrees continue to be issued to hand over their minor child to the abuser, with their address of residence in the shelter stated in the decrees.

    Mrs. Andronikou pointed out, moreover, before the Commission that when accommodating victims of family violence in the shelter, not only are the existing decrees not suspended, but the issuance of new ones is also proceeding. At the same time, as he said, victims who receive EEE, during their stay in the shelter are forced to lose their allowance, which makes them even more vulnerable and often forces them to return to the abusive environment.

    The President of the Committee, Irini Charalambidou, stated in her statements after the meeting that it will be examined whether the issue of issuing decrees during the stay of victims of violence in the shelter is covered by the four new bills that will be brought before the Legal Committee, as this was mentioned during the meeting by the Deputy President of the Legal Committee and MP of DISY, Fotini Tsiridou.

    “In the event that we see that the provisions in the bills that have been submitted in relation to the decrees do not satisfy us, in consultation with the specific organizations, we will proceed to submit a proposal for a law, because this issue cannot be perpetuated,” said the Mr. Charalambidou, underlining that these interventions must be done immediately, for the better protection of the victims.

    The Scientific Director of SPAVO noted before the Commission that when the victims decide to leave the abusive environment, then the risk of femicide also appears. The legislation on femicides, moreover, was the subject of discussion at today's meeting, after the recent femicide in Greece, as well as the incident of a pregnant woman being beaten by her partner in Cyprus, which came to light.

    < p>More specifically, Ms. Andronikou stated that on average, out of the 3,300 cases that SPAVO examines each year, 800 women meet the criteria of a special EU scale for an increased risk of losing their life due to partner and family violence, while in 400 cases established effects on their mental and physical health are found.

    He also referred to some characteristics of the perpetrators that aggravate the risk of femicide, such as gun ownership and addictions, while he pointed out that the perpetrators are not exempt from the granting of a presidential pardon. In addition, as he said, due to better financial ability, the perpetrator often overtakes the victim in almost all steps, while the victim is faced with administrative and procedural obstacles.

    In particular, he referred to obstacles in granting legal aid to victims, as well as the delay in examining complaints by the court, noting that often women who have made complaints, eventually withdraw them after reaching the court after 3-4 years.

    Ms. Andronikou pointed out that the contact orders of the perpetrator of domestic violence with minors should be suspended for as long as the children are accommodated with the victims in shelters. Also, saying that there is a distortion, he clarified that SPAVO does not open the door to anyone who reports by phone that he is a victim of domestic violence.

    Finally, he referred to the state's financial contribution to the operation of SPAVO, which covers 70% of its needs. He explained that this implies that the Association must find approximately 30,000 euros per month to ensure its operation. “The contribution of the state must be equal to the scientific services it provides”, noted Mrs. Andronikou, while she also requested a better contribution from the Ministry of Justice to be greater in programs.

    Representative of the Advisory Committee for Prevention and Combating Violence in the Family, stated before the Committee that the recommendation made by them was to have a legal regulation, so that during the stay of a victim of domestic violence in a place of accommodation, decrees are suspended.

    It was also mentioned that there have been cases of decrees for a mandatory psychiatric examination of the victim while he is in the shelter. Besides, as Ms. Andronikou, a perpetrator of domestic violence, who had secured a decree, said before the Commission, he initiated a lawsuit against her, when she did not allow the execution of the decree, during the victim's stay in the shelter.

    A special reference was made by the Advisory Committee for the Prevention and Combating of Violence, to the need to monitor the decrees, since when they are not respected, as it was said, they may eventually result in femicides as well. In particular, it was mentioned that the electronic surveillance of decrees, which is applied in other European countries, is also a recommendation from the Council of Europe.

    With electronic monitoring, following the issuance of an order to remove an offender, he is obliged to wear a wristband which activates a signal to the Police, when the distance between him and the victim's mobile phone, on which a contracted digital application is installed, is reduced. Also, if the bracelet is removed, the system is also activated.

    As Aristos Tsiartas, head of the Human Rights Department of the Ministry of Justice, explained, in Cyprus electronic surveillance is only applied to those who are about to expire of the prison sentence, although a study is being carried out by the Ministry, to determine whether it can be extended to other cases.

    According to the data presented at the meeting by the Assistant Director of the Anti-Crime Department of the Cyprus Police, Kyriaki Lambrianidou, over a period of five years (2019-2023) a total of 22 femicides were registered, nine in 2019 (of which 7 were the victims of serial murderer), five in 2020, five in 2021, two in 2022 and one in 2023.

    Ms. Lambrianidou stated that the Police follows a risk assessment protocol for cases involving violence between partners/spouses, as well as a protocol for cases of gender-based violence against women, a protocol for domestic violence cases, as well as a protocol for rape cases.

    He explained that these protocols are included in the training of Police members, especially for members who deal specifically with such cases. He added that some elements were also included in the general training, so that all Police officers who come into contact with such incidents are aware.

    Following the discussion about the protocols applied by members of the Police, the absence of a protocol for health workers, who are called to handle incidents of rape, was highlighted during the meeting.

    The need to inform health workers was pointed out with her intervention by Christina Kaili, on behalf of the Cyprus Women's Lobby, saying that there is a need to inform frontline professionals, such as doctors, since, as she said, health workers admit that they have not ever informed of rape handling protocols. On behalf of the Ministry of Justice, Mr. Tsiartas stated that the need to revise the protocols for handling victims of sexual violence has been identified.

    Mrs. Kaili also referred to the fact that it is more difficult to access support services for women with an immigrant or refugee background. Regarding this issue, Mr. Tsiartas stated that the Ministry of Justice is proceeding with conducting an investigation in areas of increased risk, such as the accommodation areas for immigrants and asylum seekers, as four of the eight forms of violence specifically concern this category of people, as he said .

    Mr. Tsiartas underlined that crimes against women are not crimes of jealousy or passion or honor, nor are they linked to psychopathological phenomena, but they are gender crimes and as such we must deal with them. He also noted that a uniform way of recording these gender-based crimes is being promoted, in order to have a clear picture of all forms of violence, not only from the Police's side, but from all the organizations involved.

    From the point of view of the Legal Service, however, it was mentioned that for the trial of femicide cases, if there is premeditation, the use of the offense of murder in the indictment is chosen, so that the greatest possible penalty is imposed. The crime of femicide is included in the indictment in case there is an argument that the crime was committed in the heat of the moment. Besides, as DISY Member of Parliament, Fotini Tsiridou, stated, the crime of femicide was legalized more to send messages, rather than to help legally.

    In her statements after the meeting, the President of the Committee and Member of Parliament of AKEL, Irini Charalamoidou, pointed out that femicides have repetitive and predictable characteristics and for this reason they can be avoided. He added, however, that an assessment of the dangerousness of each reported incident is needed, in order to be able to take the necessary preventive intervention, and coordination between the various services is also needed.

    Mrs. Charalambidou expressed particular concern about the recent incident with the woman who was pregnant, especially regarding the confusion that existed in the positions of the Police, since Mrs. Lambrianidou stated at the Commission meeting that the woman was transported by patrol car, while in the statements of the Police representative had stated that he was transported by a private vehicle. For this reason, said Ms. Charalambidou, written information was requested on the Police protocols and how they worked in this case.

    Regarding the interruption of the EEE by victims residing in the SPAVO shelter, the Mr. Charalambidou said that this makes them even more vulnerable and said that the issue will be raised in a meeting with the Deputy Minister of Welfare scheduled for 13/5.

    During her intervention at the meeting, the DISY Member of Parliament , Rita Superman, noted that the very labeling of crimes against women as femicide is an act of resistance. He also raised the issue of information actions in schools, to strengthen the accommodation structures for victims of violence and to inform the officials who handle such cases.

    The independent Member of Parliament, Alexandra Attalidou, in her intervention at the meeting spoke for an extreme form of gender-based violence, pointing out that the collection of data on such crimes in Cyprus is insufficient.

    Source: cyprustimes.com

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