While domestic violence continues to be a significant public health problem across the nation, the fact remains that the United States enjoys some of the strongest legal protections against domestic violence found anywhere on earth. With more than one billion women living in countries with no legal protections against DV, it’s evident there is still much work to be done to change mindsets and provide more protection across the globe. And yet, in recent years, the world has seen a remarkable amount of progress as more and more countries pass stricter laws and stronger penalties against domestic violence. Let’s take a snapshot of our world and look at this issue from an international perspective. Where are domestic violence protections strongest? Where are they nonexistent? How much progress is being made?
The Good News About Domestic Violence Protections Internationally
As recently as 2006, only 60 nations across the globe had passed laws prohibiting domestic violence; by 2011, the UN reported that that number had more than doubled, to 127 nations. The latest numbers show that 144 countries now have laws in place to protect domestic violence victims and punish the perpetrators. This data indicates a positive trend of new laws being passed with heightened awareness of the need to protect victims. The Washington Post reports that the continents of North America and Europe currently enjoy the strongest and most consistent legal protections available for domestic violence victims–and the United States is at or very near the top of the list. Other nations with similar laws against domestic violence include Chile, Columbia, New Zealand, South Africa, Austria, and the UK.
Another marker to measure progress is the rapidly declining number of countries in which marital rape is still not a crime. In 2011, the UN reported that marital rape was still technically legal in 127 countries. A more recent report indicates that number has dropped to 32 countries. Even so, that means 32 countries afford no protections for wives against sexual assault by their husbands. Even worse, it’s still legal in 20 nations for rapists to marry their victims to avoid prosecution. So there’s still work to be done.
Countries that Are Moving Toward Change
The list of countries that continue to pass new laws against domestic violence is growing longer. Some of the more recent success stories in recent years include:
- China—Passed its first law in 2016 making domestic violence a national crime and describing DV as any physical or psychological abuse against relatives or cohabiting non-relatives.
- Jordon, Lebanon, and Tunisia have been among several nations in the Middle-East that have rescinded their “rape-marriage” laws.
- Kyrgyzstan—A new law, appropriately named Safeguarding and Protection Against Domestic Violence (SPAV), makes it easier for victims and witnesses to report DV cases with better police follow-up. It also offers more rehabilitation efforts to domestic violence perpetrators.
- Liberia—Passed an exceptionally strong Domestic Violence Act in 2019 that not only strengthens protections for women, men, children who are victims of DV, but also makes it mandatory for health care providers, school authorities, and social workers to report suspected incidents of DV to the authorities.
Countries that Still Afford No Domestic Violence Protections
Despite the progress indicated above, dozens of nations still have no specific legal protections in place for victims of domestic violence. The largest and most notable of these countries is Russia, whose laws do prohibit general violence, but whose law enforcement officials tend to look the other way when violence occurs within households.
Most of the nations with no DV protections are concentrated in the Middle East, lower Africa, and West Asia, but there are pockets all across the globe where victims still have no legal recourse. The list of countries includes, but is not limited to:
- Ivory Coast
How COVID Has Affected DV Rates Internationally
Legal protections aside, the quarantines and lockdowns across the globe from the COVID-19 pandemic have had a devastating impact on the numbers of domestic violence cases–an expected result with so many victims trapped in their homes with their abusers. News reports from around the world consistently showed spikes in the number of domestic violence cases in places under quarantine. As new waves of COVID occur, experts believe these numbers will remain elevated for the next several years.
How Effective Are the Stronger Laws?
The bad news is that despite the positive worldwide trends to afford more protections for DV victims, the rates of domestic violence themselves are still unacceptably high. Take, for example, the United States, which legally speaking is one of the safest countries in the world for domestic violence victims. Here in the U.S., 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men will still become victims of domestic violence in their lifetime—this, despite the stricter criminal consequences passed in recent years. One reason why these stronger laws aren’t having the desired effect may be that they address DV after the fact without doing anything to prevent it. In other words, the laws are not preventive but punitive, penalizing DV after it has occurred rather than attempting to stop it.
Where Do We Go from Here?
While the passage of stronger DV laws internationally can be seen as positive progress, the continued high number of DV cases shows us that laws alone are not enough to stem the domestic violence epidemic. Besides raising awareness of the problem, the global community may need to shift its focus at this time toward prevention rather than punishment. Implement more proactive solutions like educational and mental health resources might do more to reduce the number of victims than passing stronger laws.
What does this all mean for you if you have been recently charged with domestic violence? Although you might be feeling anxious about the future, the good news is that there are ways to defend against unfair charges of DV–and even if your arrest was valid because of an altercation that got out of control, there are many resources available to help you prevent a recurrence.
For the time being, if you’re facing domestic violence charges in Los Angeles, you need a compassionate defense attorney in your corner. We are here to help. Call our office for a free initial consultation.