Magda and her two children endured years of physical and psychological abuse at the hands of her husband. Only after he broke their infant daughter’s legs, arms, and other bones did Magda finally report him to the police. He received a suspended sentence for causing severe bodily harm. Now, a new law under consideration could offer hope and support to Magda and others facing similar situations.
The government commissioner for human rights, Klára Šimáčková Laurenčíková, along with MPs Eva Decroix (ODS) and Barbora Urbanová (STAN), presented a proposed law on domestic violence. The government aims to discuss the bill by the end of June, and if approved, it will take effect on July 1, 2024.
The proposed legislation seeks to establish a unified definition of “domestic violence” within the Civil Code, eliminate the requirement for mediation in custody disputes, and extend the period for expelling aggressors from the household from ten to fourteen days.
Magda’s story was shared by the initiative “Pod svícnem” (Under the Candle), which supports domestic violence victims. She expressed her frustration at not having video evidence and was told by her lawyer to be grateful for what she did have. Despite the abuse she and her children suffered, the court ruling still stated that both parents should have custody of the children by agreement.
According to Laurenčíková, thirty percent of women and twelve percent of men have experienced domestic violence. While most cases involve partners, seventeen percent involve other family members. Shockingly, the recorded topics of abuse in shared living spaces in the Czech Republic last year reached 400, while the police annually evict over a thousand individuals from such households. Social services intervene in around 2,000 families yearly where violence against children occurs.
Laurenčíková emphasized that these figures represent only the tip of the iceberg, as most victims never report the abuse they endure. Disturbingly, a survey revealed that 26 percent of the population believes the victims themselves are to blame for the domestic violence they experience.
The proposed law aims to improve the protection of victims. Although “domestic violence” is mentioned in eight essential laws, there is no comprehensive definition. This lack of clarity leads to inconsistent approaches by authorities such as the police, courts, and social services. Laurenčíková stressed the importance of amending the Civil Code to explicitly consider domestic violence in determining child custody and the division of joint property during divorce proceedings.
MP Decroix, who specializes in family law, highlighted the complex nature of domestic violence, noting that it encompasses physical violence and psychological, sexual, and economic abuse. The new law would also require the police to expel perpetrators for fourteen days in cases of an immediate threat to the victim and automatically confiscate any firearms in their possession.
Urbanová, the founder of “Pod svícnem,” explained that the ten-day expulsion period is often insufficient for victims to find new support systems and sever ties with their abusers. The proposed extension to fourteen days would offer them additional time and protection.
These proposed changes aim to address domestic violence earlier before victims suffer severe physical harm, and children are subjected to enduring trauma. The government’s commitment to enhancing the protection of domestic violence victims signals a significant step forward in safeguarding the well-being and rights of those affected by this pervasive issue.