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Victim services

Protection, Support and Assistance for Victims

Victims may include the direct target of the harmful practice, as well as her immediate family. (See: Basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation for Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, ¶ 8) However, when drafting provisions on the rights of victims of harmful practices, drafters should take into account that her immediate family may be the perpetrators or accomplices to the crime. Laws should clearly delineate that, for purposes of this section, victims do not include any person who perpetrated, authorized, aided, abetted or otherwise solicited the harmful practice, regardless of their relationship to the victim.

  • Drafters should ensure that laws include provision for funding for comprehensive and integrated support services to assist victims of harmful practices crimes.

    For example, with regards to honour crimes, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 1681 (2009) recommends that states provide shelter that is geographically accessible to victims, develop long-term physical and psychological support programs for victims, facilitate economic independence of victims, and provide police protection and a new identify, if needed. (See:  Honour Crimes)
  • Drafters should provide for a free, 24-hour hotline that is accessible from anywhere in the country, offers assistance in multiple languages, and is staffed by persons trained in issues related to harmful practice. (See: Crisis Centers and Hotlines, The Advocates for Human Rights, Stop VAW)

Promising Practice: Netherlands – Hotline for immigrant women

The Allochtone Vrouwentelefoon Oost Nederland hotline provides support assistance to immigrant women. The telephone line is untraceable, free-of-charge, and staffed by volunteers who collectively speak ten languages. (See: Honour Related Violence: European Resource Book and Good Practice, 2005, p. 127.  See:  Honour Crimes)

  • Drafters should provide sufficient shelters for victims of harmful practices located in both rural and urban areas, which can accommodate victims and their children for emergency stays and which will help them to find a refuge for longer stays. (See: Shelters and Safe Houses, The Advocates for Human Rights, Stop VAW). The decision to stay at a shelter should always be made voluntarily by the victim. Drafters ensure that special accommodation is made for girls under 18 years of age who are at risk for harmful practices. Shelter policies and accommodations should take into account the special needs of immigrant women and girls.
  • Legislation should provide adequate resources for shelters to provide resources and support to victims of harmful practices. If shelters for domestic violence are used to receive victims of harmful practices, shelter workers and advocates should be adequately trained to address issues specific and unique to various harmful practices. 
  • Drafters should repeal any laws or orders that allow the practice of detaining women who are victims of harmful practices. The focus should be on arresting the perpetrators rather than detaining or relocating the victims. Drafters should adopt laws ordering the immediate release of victims of harmful practices who have been detained without charge, process or review; repeal laws that precondition a woman’s release on the custody of a male relative or husband; and, upon release, ensure victims’ full protection and facilitate voluntary placement in a shelter for women victims of violence, if the victim so desires. 

See Honour Crimes for CASE STUDY: Where shelters are lacking, some governments have incarcerated victims in prisons to protect them from honour crimes.  This practice should be avoided. For example, in Jordan, no shelters exist for victims of honour crimes, and state authorities often place these women in involuntary detention in the Jweideh Correctional and Rehabilitation Center. (See: U.S. Department of State Country Human Rights Report: Jordan (2008)) An administrative governor may detain without due process any person in protective custody to ensure public safety, a practice regularly applied to females who are at risk of being subjected to honour-based violence. Once detained under the governor’s order, only his consent will secure her release, which is generally granted only when he believes she can leave safely and a male relative agrees to assume responsibility for her. (See: Human Rights Watch, Honoring the Killers: Justice Denied for “Honor” Crimes in Jordan, 2004, pp. 24-27)

  • Drafters should provide one crisis center for every 50,000 population, with trained staff to provide support, legal advice, and crisis intervention counseling for victims of harmful practices, including specialized services for particular groups such as immigrants. (See: Crisis Centers and Hotlines, The Advocates for Human Rights, Stop VAW)
  • Crisis centers should be prepared and adequately trained to deal with victims before, during and after the harmful practice.
  • Accreditation standards for the assistance centers described above should be developed in consultation with NGOs and advocates working directly with complainants/ survivors. 
  • Drafters should provide for access to health care for immediate injuries and long-term care including reproductive health care and HIV prophylaxis. (See: The Advocates for Human Rights, Stop VAW Sections on:

o   Role of Health Care Providers

o   Confidentiality and Support

o   Screening and Referral

o   Documentation and Reporting

o   Health Care Response)

  • Health care should be adequately resourced to address the particular injuries, such as burns or disfiguration that victims of harmful practices may have sustained. Victims of FGM should receive services for their immediate injuries but also for the long-term consequences of the practice. (See: Female Genital Mutilation) 
  • Drafters should provide for aid, including shelter, clothing and food, for the children of a victim of harmful practices in the shelters described above.
  • A state agency should be assigned to establish the aid centers described above, by providing general guidelines or standards, and the state agency should be mandated to fund all of the above services.

 

Promising Practice: United Kingdom - UK’s Women’s National Commission

The UK’s Women’s National Commission is a national body that liaises between the women’s rights advocates and government to promote women’s equality. The commission is state-funded yet free to comment on government policy. The Women’s National Commission established a Violence Against Women Working Group, with two sub-groups on sexual violence and domestic violence, which seeks:

1. To promote understanding and awareness of violence against women and effect changes in laws, policy and practice;

2.  To monitor implementation of Government Action Plans;

3. To co-ordinate Women’s National Commission member views on violence against women and to ensure that these views are represented to policy-makers;

4. To liaise with other Women’s National Commission Groups on relevant aspects of work;

5.   To produce reports in response to national and international developments; and

6.   To liaise with Government departments, other non-departmental public bodies, and relevant NGO policy working groups.

(See: United Nations Handbook for legislation against women, 3.6.1. See also: UN Model Code VII B)