Depending on where we get our information, research has shown that anywhere between 35 percent and 70 percent of women worldwide have been victimized by domestic or sexual violence at some point in their lives. Most laws passed against domestic violence are intended to prevent and punish these acts, but here in the U.S., where we have some of the strongest laws against DV, 20 people still become victims of domestic violence every minute.
Even so, if we look at the research done by human rights activists, we find that America is truly at or near the head of the pack as far as legal protections for women. While many still become victims, they at least have some legal recourse. Let’s examine this issue beyond our shores and look at how domestic violence is handled in other countries around the world.
Countries with No Domestic Violence Laws
It might seem unthinkable from our perspective here in the 21st Century, but according to World Bank, more than one billion women around the world live in places that afford them almost zero protection against domestic sexual violence. Nearly as disturbing, more than 600 million women live in nations with no laws protecting them against domestic violence in general. The highest concentration of these nations are located in regions in the Middle East, Western Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Here’s just a partial list:
• Ivory Coast
• Burkina Faso
• …and many others.
Perhaps the most surprising and notable nation having no domestic violence protection: Russia. While the nation has laws on the books against violence in general, a recent human rights report exposes the reality that law enforcement in Russia often does little or nothing to respond to reports of domestic violence, or particularly violence specifically against women.
Nations That Are Improving
While these facts are certainly disconcerting, not all the news is bad. As early as 2003, only 45 nations across the globe had laws specifically addressing DV. By 2006, that number had increased to 60, according to the UN. And with the recent push of public outrage against domestic and sexual violence worldwide, a number of nations have taken great strides in the past few years to provide more legal protections for victims. Some notable examples:
• Kyrgyzstan—a new law, aptly named Safeguarding and Protection Against Domestic Violence, makes it easy for both victims and witnesses to report DV incidents with improved police follow-up. It also provides more rehabilitative efforts for the perpetrators of domestic violence.
• Tunisia—passed sweeping legislation in 2017 to stem the tide of violence against women—including a repeal of a law that said a rapist could be pardoned if he married his victim.
• Jordon and Lebanon—followed suit with Tunisia by repealing their respective “rape marriage” laws.
• Liberia—passed a series of legislation over the past several years with increasing protections for DV victims.
Taken together, these developments give us a hopeful sign that more nations across the globe are starting to recognize how domestic violence victimizes women in particular, and are taking more direct steps to prevent and punish acts of violence.
Nations That Afford Protection
Remember how we said 60 countries had passed domestic violence protections by 2006? According to another UN report, by 2011 that number had jumped to 125 nations, which again represents movement in the right direction. That being said, most human rights reports suggest more still needs to be done worldwide to improve protections and (more importantly) to curb the actual acts of violence. The same UN report points out that at least 127 nations still have no laws that specifically address the question of marital rape, for example. In addition, we must point out that passing laws and enforcing them are two different things, and while a certain nation may have laws on the books, that fact doesn’t guarantee consistent enforcement. Data compiled by the Washington Post shows that, at least from a legal standpoint, North America and Europe have the strongest and most consistent legal protections for victims of domestic violence. Other nations with comparable legal protections include South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Columbia and Chile, among others.
Why Does Domestic Violence Persist?
Taken in this perspective, the United States is (at least legally) one of the safest places in the world when it comes to domestic violence. And yet, most of us would agree that when 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men suffer domestic abuse in America, those numbers are still unacceptable. Why are our stronger laws not doing more to stem the tide of DV? The answer: laws are punitive, not pre-emptive. In other words, the law can only punish domestic violence after the fact—it can’t actually prevent the act from happening. While strict laws do deter some people from committing these crimes, most acts of domestic violence happen impulsively in moments of extreme emotion, when people aren’t necessary thinking logically about the consequences. The result: In places like California with extremely strict DV laws, we don’t necessarily see fewer cases of DV. We just see more arrests.
Bringing It Home
What does all this information mean for you if you’ve recently been arrested and charged with domestic violence? While you may be currently facing some fear and uncertainty over the future, the fact remains the laws exist to protect us all. If the charges are unfounded, thanks to our justice system, we can take steps to defend the innocent. If the charges are justified, your best course of action is to evaluate why and how these actions happened and take steps so as not to repeat them. Regardless of how strict the laws may be, at the end of the day, we are our own best deterrent.
If you need legal representation for a domestic violence charge, call our offices for a free case evaluation.