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Advocates

Legislation should ensure that complainants/survivors have access to advocates who will be present and advise them through the legal process, including filing for orders of protection, accompanying them to court, and filing for restitution or compensation available by statute.  Legislation should provide that these advocates must be trained in counseling, in domestic violence and dowry-related violence issues, and in the law and practice of their country. Trainings should be standardized to ensure a uniform response. Laws must provide these advocates with the infrastructural support to effectively carry out their work. (See: Women’s Human Rights Training, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights)

Advocates’ roles in enforcing protection orders should focus on providing the complainant/survivor with information should they choose to relocate; ensure they have copies of the protection order; work with other civil and criminal justice professionals and community members to promote effective enforcement of protection orders, according to the wishes and needs of survivors; provide help to survivors during the enforcement process, (e.g. accompanying them to retrieve their possessions or arranging for a police escort; work with police to enforce protection orders issued locally or in another jurisdiction; work with courts to strengthen victim safety and ensure perpetrator compliance with the order) and; work with the community to improve enforcement (e.g. helping complainant/survivors discuss enforcement of protection orders with school personnel as it related to their children).

See: A Guide for Effective Issuance & Enforcement of Protection Orders, National Council of Family and Juvenile Court Judges.

Legislation should reflect the importance of the confidentiality of the relationship between an advocate and a complainant/survivor. (See: Section on Confidentiality for complainant/survivors. For example, the law of Georgia states that “The information on state of physical and psychological status of the victim shall be confidential and its disclosure shall be permitted only in cases provided by law.” Article 19)

(See: Fuller, Rana SA, “The Importance of Confidentiality Between Domestic Violence Advocates and Domestic Violence Victims,” StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights)

Also, legislation should state that the role of advocates is not to mediate between the parties or facilitate reconciliation, but to provide the complainant/survivor with information about her legal rights and remedies and assistance. (See: Mediation, StopVAW, The Advocates for Human Rights)

For more on the relationship of advocates and complainant/survivors see: Davies, Jill, “When Battered Women Stay…Advocacy Beyond Leaving” (2008); and Uniform Protocol for the Management of Victims, Survivors, and Witnesses of Domestic Violence and Sexual Offences.

CASE STUDY: India’s domestic violence law provides for the appointment of Protection Officers, which perform a role similar to that of advocates. The Protection Officer drafts and submits an incident report to the police and magistrate, as well as assists the victim in applying for a protection order if she so desires (Section 9). In addition, such Protection Officers ensure the victim is provided with legal aid, maintains a list of service providers, and facilitates medical examinations if the victim is injured. Specific to the dowry context, such officers are to help “Restore the possession of the personal effects including gifts and jewelry of the aggrieved person and the shared household to the aggrieved person” (Rule 10). Because the law is silent on pre-litigation counseling, some Protection Officers have taken on the role of counselor for women at this stage; laws should direct that only qualified professionals provide counseling and that Protection Officers without such qualifications should provide referrals. Also, the law confers responsibility on the Protection Officer to enforce orders as directed by the court; laws should segregate and place responsibility for enforcing orders on police and prosecutors, as well. The Lawyers Collective has issued a monitoring report on India’s law and made several recommendations, including: ensuring the officers are full-time personnel, allocating sufficient infrastructure and personnel; establish reporting requirement protocols for officers; prioritizing the appointment of people with legal or social work backgrounds, as well as making available legal services to the officers; making available a list of all service providers in the area, and; appointing an overarching coordinator of protection officers. (See: Staying Alive: Second Monitoring & Evaluation Report 2008 on the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, Lawyer Collective, 2008, p. 72)