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Scope of persons protected by law

Drafters should strive to make the scope of persons to be protected by a domestic violence law clear and reflective of current reality. The scope of domestic violence legislation has, in many countries, been expanded to include not only married couples but those who are or have been in intimate relationships, as well as family members and members of the same household. (UN Handbook, ch. 3.4.2.2.). It should explicitly include persons in same-sex relationships as well as those in heterosexual relationships.

Example: the Organic Act on Integrated Protection Measures against Gender Violence (2004) of Spain (hereinafter Law of Spain) defines a domestic relationship broadly, going beyond intimate or formerly intimate relationships to include those between family or household members and minors or disabled individuals under guardianship or custody.
Example: In 2010, Legislation in Alabama, USA went into effect that widened the scope of the protection from abuse act to include those in a dating relationship of six months and individuals eighteen years of age and older. Previously, the only relationships recognized by the statute were those involving marriage, divorce, common-law marriage, previous cohabitation, and those between the parents of a child; individuals were also required to be at least nineteen years of age to file for a protective order.

 

 Promising practice: The Law of South Africa, which specifically includes same-sex relationships, and which includes all individuals who are dating or have dated in the scope of persons to be protected by the domestic violence law: 

“domestic relationship” means a relationship between a complainant and a respondent in any of the following ways:

(a) they are or were married to each other, including marriage according to any law, custom or religion;(b)they (whether they are of the same or of the opposite sex) live or lived together in a relationship in the nature of marriage, although they are not, or were not, married to each other, or are not able to be married to each other;

(c)they are the parents of a child or are persons who have or had parental responsibility for that child (whether or not at the same time);

 (d)they are family members related by consanguinity, affinity or adoption; 

(e)they are or were in an engagement, dating or customary relationship. including an actual or perceived romantic, intimate or sexual relationship of any duration; or 

(f)they share or recently shared the same residence…” 1(vii) [emphasis added]

The Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act (2004) of the Philippines (hereinafter the Law of Philippines) includes a dating relationship in the scope of relationships to be covered under its domestic violence law:

As used in this Act, (a) "Violence against women and their children" refers to any act or a series of acts committed by any person against a woman who is his wife, former wife, or against a woman with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship…” (Section 3) [emphasis added]

The Law of the Philippines defines a dating relationship as follows:

"Dating relationship" refers to a situation wherein the parties live as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or are romantically involved over time and on a continuing basis during the course of the relationship. A casual acquaintance or ordinary socialization between two individuals in a business or social context is not a dating relationship. Section 3, D 4 (e)

Examples: The Law Regarding Elimination of Violence in the Household (2004) of Indonesia (hereinafter Law of Indonesia) includes “the individual working to assist the household and living in the household” within the scope of persons to be protected. Chapter I, Article 2. The Domestic Violence Act 2007 of Ghana (hereinafter the law of Ghana) includes a complainant who “is a house help in the household of the respondent…” in the scope of a domestic relationship to be covered under the law. Section 2 (i)

(See: Dating Violence and Sample National Domestic Violence Laws, StopVAW; and Family Violence: A Model State Code, Sec 102.)

See Break the Cycle: Empower Youth to End Domestic Violence, Tools for Action.