On Friday, May 22, 2020, the Diotima Center participated in the meeting of the Special Permanent Committee on Equality, Youth and Human Rights, of the Greek Parliament, on the topic: “Domestic violence in the time of the coronavirus: Women’s organizations testify their experience”.
36 women’s organizations participated in the meeting. On behalf of the Diotima Center, Anna Vouyouka (social scientist/researcher) and Marina Farmakidi (lawyer) were appointed. Read their interventions below:
Need for the cooperation of institutional bodies and Non-Governmental Organizations
We thank the Commission for its initiative to highlight the very serious issue of domestic violence, with the features it received in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the part of the Diotima Center, we will mainly refer to the refugee population and in particular to the problems and needs of refugee and immigrant women survivors of gender-based violence, which we have been supporting lately, in collaboration with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
An issue that emerged during this period concerns the support framework for (refugee) populations – victims of domestic violence, who live in places of residence, which are not related to the usual concept of residences, such as camps, hot spots, and accommodation facilities.
In addition, there were difficulties related to the access of refugees/asylum seekers to facilities, to counseling support, to hostels. As an example, I mention the obstacles faced by surviving refugee women for their accommodation in hostels, due to the condition that, in addition to the required tests, they also have to take a test for COVID-19.
Significant gaps and weaknesses were also observed, in relation to the possibility of accessing interpretation services, as well as, difficulties in filing a complaint with the Police Authorities. It is characteristic that in the reason document for leaving, the possibility of going to the Police Department to report domestic violence was not included.
However, despite the difficulties and gaps, it is necessary to mention a number of good practices, which emerged from our cooperation with the Counselling Centres.
I will mention two recent examples: The first was in Lesvos, where the GSDFPGE Counselling Center facilitated the access of refugee survivors to the hostel, despite the initial refusal to cover the request due to geographical identification.
Also, in another case, the 15900 line and Polykentro were immediately mobilized, in collaboration with Diotima’s executives and lawyers, to deal with an extremely urgent incident.
The experience of this period has also shown that it is necessary to strengthen the cooperation between institutional bodies and Non-Governmental Organizations, a fact that is recommended in a series of related articles by Law 4531/2018 (Ratification of the Istanbul Convention for the prevention and treatment of domestic violence and violence against women).
Cooperation between institutional bodies and NGOs is necessary in order, especially in such critical periods, to utilize the field experience of Non-Governmental Organizations, to identify gaps and design solutions in collaboration with public bodies.
In closing, I would like to refer very briefly to the next day, stressing that quantitative and qualitative data are required from the network of GSDFPGE structures, in order to have as clear a picture as possible of the existing situation, needs, challenges, and weaknesses so that we are able to plan more concrete steps and policies for the next period.
From field experience
From our experience in the field during this period we would like to highlight the following:
- The immediate response of GSDFPGE to the housing request we presented for a survivor of domestic violence, as a good practice.
- The huge housing issue undocumented refugees faced and still facing, who cannot pass the necessary medical tests in order to enter a hostel or any accommodation structure. Here it should be taken into account that during the protective measures there was no access to the priority registration system at the Asylum Service or at the service of the Ministry of Immigration Policy for the granting of a residence permit for humanitarian reasons, following the filing of a lawsuit for domestic violence. Note that this access has not yet been restored.
- The great difficulty in finding interpreters at the Police Stations when a survivor of domestic violence, who does not speak Greek, comes to report a crime.
- The discouraging of survivors of domestic violence from reporting a crime, in some cases; is a practice that continues to occur and was also observed during the pandemic, despite the mobilization of GSDFPGE, the active intervention of the Greek Police, and the increasing awareness of the police. It should be emphasized that despite the fact that in one of these cases the woman finally managed to file a plea, the discouragement she received at the first critical moment, when she voluntarily came to the PS, played a decisive role in the subsequent course of her separation from her husband and in the assertion of her rights.
- The need for the police authorities to take advantage of the possibility, even if no subpoena is submitted in cases where the woman withdraws, to be able to obtain at least a copy of a simple recording of the incident or to make recommendations, which was often not done and had negative consequences in the judicial protection of the survivor.
- The courts did not receive requests for injunctive measures except as an exception and by choice, if the President deemed the case to be extremely urgent. In this direction, we found that when copies of the police incident book of March or April 2020 were available, the Head of Service was willing to receive the injunctive claim and try it at the level of an interim order. The importance of the police copies mentioned above is thus demonstrated.
Finally, we would like to mention that the Draft Law of the Ministry of Justice that was just passed for the integration into Greek Legislation of Directives (EU) 2016/800, 2017/1371, 2017/541, 2011/1919, etc., in article 64, refers to the statute of limitations and non-execution of conditional sentences, and provides that main sentences of up to 6 months or fines or community service imposed by decisions that have not become irrevocable until the publication of the law and have not been served are barred and not enforced.
Unfortunately, in the misdemeanors of 3500/2006, although penalties of more than one year are threatened, it is very likely that with the recognition of extenuating circumstances, the penalties will fall below 6 months, and therefore will be time-barred and will not be executed as many penalties that have been imposed until the publication of the law which are for up to 6 months and are not irrevocable or extended, thus reinforcing a sense of impunity for very serious domestic violence law offenses.