Opening remarks by UNDP Resident Representative Louisa Vinton at the Public Discussion with Members of Parliament, the Judiciary and Academia on the Draft Law on Domestic Violence

14 Jul 2014

Dear Mr. Minister
Dear Madame Chairwoman
Distinguished guests

  • It’s a pleasure to represent the United Nations family here today for the third in a series of public discussions on the new draft law on domestic violence. As the UN, we’re truly honoured to be a part of this process.
  • As I have on previous occasions, let me again commend the Minister of Labor and Social Policy and his team for preparing a new law dedicated specifically to this issue, and for the Minister’s personal engagement in urging greater resolve from all members of society to prevent domestic violence and protect the victims.
  • For the United Nations, fighting domestic violence and all forms of violence against women is a global top priority.
  • The UN agencies are proud to have been actively engaged on this issue here for more than seven years, and to have contributed to much of the training, research, analysis and policy advice that underpins the new draft law.
  • We see the new law as a big step forward for the country.
  • Among its positive features, we would list four things:

o    First, the establishment of an integrated, multi-sectoral approach that assigns clear roles and responsibilities to all the relevant institutions;

o    Second, the strong protective measures envisaged for victims of domestic violence, including the possibility to remove the perpetrator from the family home;

o    Third, the provisions designed to prevent secondary victimization, including the right of victims to have a support provider with them during all proceedings; and

o    Fourth, the expansion of the concept of domestic violence to cover a catalogue of abuses beyond direct assault, including economic violence and stalking.

  • Alongside these strong points, many good suggestions for improving the draft have been proposed during the discussions held last week with the representatives of institutions and NGOs that focus on domestic violence.
  • We welcome the openness we see from the Ministry to take feedback of this sort into account in refining the draft, and we expect today’s discussion will also yield good suggestions.
  • Among the points raised already, let me highlight two:
  • The first is the need to model the law more closely on the two major international conventions that have been adopted to help fight all forms of violence against women: the UN Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which the country has signed and ratified, and the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the “Istanbul Convention”), which the country has signed and is preparing to ratify.
  • Both conventions define domestic violence as one form of gender-based violence that in essence is a reflection of deeper inequalities between men and women in society.
  • The statistics bear this out: in this country as everywhere else in the world, domestic violence is overwhelmingly a crime that men commit against women. In Macedonian court proceedings, for example, men account for 93 percent of the perpetrators while women comprise 82 percent of the victims.
  • Understanding domestic violence as a gender-based crime has important implications for how the law is constructed, and particularly for the design of preventive measures. For example, we think it is every bit as important to teach gender equality in schools as it is to promote non-violent behavior.
  • The second issue concerns the implementation of the law. A number of civil society representatives have noted that many provisions of the new draft are already in force, just not in the form of a single consolidated law. Yet some of these provisions are still not fully enforced or implemented.
  • The lawmakers here today have a special role to play in ensuring that measures to protect the victims of domestic violence do not remain solely on paper, but become a remedies that can be relied on in practice. In some cases, this may require investing new resources in staffing and training.