Prevention and counteraction of gender-based, and in particular domestic, violence against Ukrainian women abroad: what next?

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In our past publications ( we mentioned the story of Alexandra, who suffered from domestic violence by her husband abroad. Not receiving the support she hoped for from the Ukrainian Embassy and losing custody of her children, the woman was forced to leave her youngest daughter in another country with an abusive father. In a few years, the woman won the case against Ukraine in the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. However, neither Alexandra nor her daughter's situation has changed.

What is the problem and what is currently happening in the life of Oleksandra and her youngest daughter?

After the Committee issued conclusions and recommendations based on Oleksandra's individual complaint in July 2019, Ukraine is in no hurry to recognize and implement them, continuing to deny any violations in this situation. Unlike the mechanism for implementing the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, which was created in Ukraine through the adoption of relevant laws, in particular the Law of Ukraine "On the Implementation of Decisions and Application of the Practice of the European Court of Human Rights", currently no mechanism for implementing the decisions of the Committees has been created in our country UN. Moreover, since the UN Committees, and in particular the UN Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, are not judicial bodies, their decisions (made in the form of conclusions and recommendations) are not formally binding. At least this position is taken by our state. As for other states, the lack of binding nature of the conclusions and recommendations issued by the UN Committees does not prevent their implementation. Relevant mechanisms have been created and operate in such countries as Australia, Argentina, Georgia, Denmark, Spain, Korea, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Germany, Peru, Serbia, the Czech Republic, Chile, Sweden, Uzbekistan, etc.

To date, Oleksandra has not received compensation for the damages caused to her by inaction and neglect on the part of the diplomatic mission and other state authorities of Ukraine. In turn, the NGO "La Strada-Ukraine", carrying out legal support of this case, prepared a lawsuit to the court, in the case of which Oleksandra will be able to receive compensation for moral damages. The relevant case can become a precedent not only in the aspect of Ukraine's actual implementation of individual recommendations issued by the Committee, but also in the aspect of compensation for damages in general to all victims of domestic violence who did not receive adequate protection from the state.

Oleksandra's daughter, who is a citizen of Ukraine, continues to suffer from domestic violence abroad, just like her mother once did. The girl's situation is even more complicated. After all, unlike Oleksandra, she is a minor. Therefore, her communication with the Ukrainian embassy takes place through her mother, who currently lives in Ukraine, that is, actually from the territory of another state. Not only the girl's age stands in the way of Oleksandra's daughter applying to the Ukrainian embassy, but also her father, who, being an abuser, cuts off any attempts by his daughter to get help. Actually, this situation is indicative and illustrates how difficult it is for victims of domestic violence to get help. Implementation by our state of the Committee's recommendations of a general nature, in particular regarding the provision of effective consular protection and legal assistance in

access to justice for Ukrainian women who are in a vulnerable situation abroad could contribute to improving the situation.

The reaction of diplomatic institutions of Ukraine abroad should be more decisive and proactive. All resources available to diplomatic institutions in the host country should be used, such as contacting the police, social services, hospitals, shelters, and public organizations. It is important that victims are able to obtain legal aid to the extent necessary for their access to court. Since the conditions for the protection of victims differ in different states, an objective assessment of the mechanism for preventing and countering domestic violence in the host state is needed, as well as the development of a clear algorithm of actions for the appeals of victims of Ukrainian citizens to diplomatic missions. In order to implement all this, it may be appropriate to make changes to the national legislation of Ukraine, which would directly establish the relevant functions and powers of these subjects.

Understanding this need, the NGO "La Strada-Ukraine" is currently developing a corresponding draft law, which will provide for the inclusion of diplomatic institutions of Ukraine abroad in the list of subjects implementing measures in the field of prevention and counteraction of domestic violence and gender-based violence.

To find out about further developments, follow our next posts and updates.

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