A legal definition of domestic violence, missing in the national legislation so far, was introduced into law in the Czech Republic on Tuesday.
Despite alarming numbers, Czech legislation had no domestic violence definition, which brought significant uncertainty into police conduct or judicial decision-making.
Therefore, the Czech government office created an overarching definition of domestic violence in the Civil Code, which should be in force by the middle of next year. The proposal was presented by the Czech Government Commissioner for Human Rights Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková on Tuesday.
Almost 30% of women and 12% of men in the Czech Republic have experienced domestic violence, according to data from 2022. In the majority of cases, the perpetrator is an intimate partner, while less than one-fifth of the victims report abuse by other family members.
“The experience of organisations helping victims has long shown that our system of protection against domestic violence is not perfect,” she said to Czech journalists, adding that the problem could be even more than presented statistics say.
“The published figures are just the tip of an imaginary iceberg. Only one in five cases of serious domestic violence is reported,” she said.
According to Branislava Marvánová Vargová of the ROSA Women’s Centre, the ambiguous definition of domestic violence is one of the problems complicating care for victims.
Marvánová Vargová explained that in practice there is uncertainty in some authorities as to what is and what is not domestic violence. Therefore, she said, the number of cases could not be judged, for example, by the number of aggressors evicted from a common household.
“The number of those reported is not the number of cases, there are many more. In the Czech Republic, there are roughly 1 000 reported cases per year, but in Austria, which we are inspired by, there are roughly 5 000 cases per year in Vienna alone. In practice, there is a certain uncertainty as to when I can label a case as domestic violence,” she described.
The new proposal defines domestic violence as behaviour towards the victim “by which his or her mental or physical integrity, freedom, dignity, especially in the sexual sphere, respectability, honour or privacy has been or may be unjustifiably interfered with”.
Domestic violence is also considered an act “seriously endangering or impairing” victims’ ability to meet “his or her own needs or those of members of the common household”.
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