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Complicating factors

Monitors must consider many complicating factors in cases of violence against women and girls. These factors should inform all findings and conclusions of a monitoring study.  For example, when monitors investigate the willingness of complainant/survivors to come forward to the police, monitors should consider societal norms and related factors such as the shame attached to the violence, the attitude of the police to victims, the attitude of police to violent offenders, and how a victim’s family might react.

Other complicating factors in cases of violence against women are:

  • Property issues- right of residency or inheritance
  • Child custody laws
  • Matrimonial customs
  • Economic/employment issues
  • Water rights
  • Land ownership
  • Polygamy
  • Education

For example, the Third Monitoring & Evaluation Report 2009 on the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, (2005) by the Lawyers Collective Women's Rights Initiative noted that in India, usually only the male members of the family are given legal title in the house, and property rights are usually not conferred upon women at marriage. Thus, one of the complicating factors is that dependent victims of domestic violence are often dispossessed from the shared household. “As a result, the woman continues to remain in a violent relationship for fear of becoming homeless.” p. 5 [Although Section 17 of the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005) clearly states the right of a woman to reside in a shared household whether or not she has title, it does not confer upon her the right of ownership in the property.]

In Response to Domestic Violence and Co-ordinated Victim Protection in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska: Preliminary Findings on the Implementation of the Laws on Protection from Domestic Violence (2009), the monitors noted that “the fact that many couples live in a common household owned by the perpetrator’s parents would also appear to be a contributing factor” in the infrequency of use of protective orders. p. 12

In Implementation of the Bulgarian Law on Protection against Domestic Violence, some of the complicating factors cited were weak criminal laws for punishing domestic violence offenders and the belief of some judges that women misuse the domestic violence law. p. 36

In Security Begins at Home: Research to Inform the First National Strategy and Action Plan against Domestic Violence in Kosovo (2008), monitors identified “social constraints” that affected domestic violence, such as traditional power structures within the family (p. 67) and discrimination in property ownership and inheritance (p. 74).

Gaps in law

Monitors must discern if there are gaps in existing laws by addressing specific questions to interviewees or survey respondents, or by following up on information gleaned from respondents.

For example, in Implementation of the Bulgarian Law on Protection against Domestic Violence, the failure of the law to explicitly criminalize violations of orders for protection resulted in confusion on the part of the police as to what action to take. Therefore, responses to violations of orders for protection varied. p. 24  And, because the law did not clearly define the obligation of prosecutors to respond to violations of orders for protection, they did not respond to notification of violations. p. 39

In Response to Domestic Violence and Co-ordinated Victim Protection in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska: Preliminary Findings on the Implementation of the Laws on Protection from Domestic Violence (2009) monitors concluded that the failure to include legal aid for domestic violence victims was a clear gap in the law of Bosnia and Herzegovina. p.15 

In Gender-Based Violence In Tanzania: An Assessment of Policies, Services, and Promising Interventions (2008), monitors noted that Tanzanian law addressed domestic violence minimally in the family law and only through penal code on general violence or assault. The lack of a specific law on domestic violence was noted as a gap by the monitors.

Unintended consequences of law

In the course of conducting a monitoring study, monitors will likely become aware of unintended consequences of laws on violence against women and girls. For example, the Staying Alive: Second Monitoring & Evaluation Report from India’s Lawyers Collective Women's Rights Initiative (LCWRI) noted that Protection Officers were asked if they recorded a Domestic Incidence Report.  From their replies, the monitors realized that the Protection Officers did not understand their role under the PWDVA and that the Protection Officers had expanded their roles beyond the letter of the law into home visits and counseling. p.42

Also, the LCWRI monitors noted that in some Indian states, there were a large number of settlements and compromises in cases under the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act (2005).  Monitors planned to undertake a detailed analysis of this development to ascertain if these compromises were imposed on women in the name of maintaining the family. p. 179, Third Monitoring & Evaluation Report 2009 on the Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005 (2009).

In Implementation of the Bulgarian Law on Protection against Domestic Violence, a conflict between the Bulgarian domestic violence law and the Child Protection Act allowed a victim’s address to be revealed to the aggressor. (p. 13)

These unintended consequences should be described in the monitoring report, and recommendations should address the best options for eliminating the unintended consequences. See: Recommendations.