Our story from Lithuania and Serbia

Dear Friends,

Last Wednesday morning, we gathered in a conference room at the Prezar hotel which is situated in the hills high above the Serbian town of Vranje.   Legal professionals and advocates had come from around the region and we were about to begin the second day of our training on improving the legal system’s response to violence against women.  Before we started, we learned that the 13th domestic violence homicide in Serbia for 2015 had happened the day before. One per week, since the beginning of the year.

IMG_2300When we announced this murder to our 35 training participants – police, NGO’s, Centers for Social Work,  prosecutors and judges, I sensed something in the room.  It was a feeling of urgency that I have noticed more and more in recent years from those who are the first responders to cases of violence against women.  Continue reading

Legislation is Not Enough: Turkey Fails to Enforce its Violence Against Women Laws

Protests erupted in Turkey in February after the discovery of twenty-year-old Ozgecan Aslan’s burnt body in a riverbed. Aslan was stabbed to death while resisting an attempted rape. The perpetrator attempted to cover-up the murder and prevent Aslan’s identification by burning her body and cutting off her hands. Aslan’s death has drawn attention to the tragic reality that passing legislation is not sufficient by itself to end violence against women—there must also be enforcement of the legislation along with cultural recognition of the rights of women.

Özgecan_Aslan_-_VOASince 2000, Turkey has modernized its laws to provide greater protection to women. The Turkish Civil Code now grants women and men equal rights within the family. Following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that Turkey had failed to protect a victim of domestic violence, Turkey enacted domestic violence legislation in 2012. Turkey’s Penal Code has also been updated to eliminate antiquated and paternalistic views of sexual assault and honor killings. Sex crimes are now defined as crimes committed against the individual victim rather than the family, and references to chastity, morality, shame, and public decency have been eliminated.

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Workshop in Morocco: Making a Difference Now and Later

10606392_812576058824447_534051577579020973_nMorocco is an incredibly beautiful place, unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. Just leaving the lingering Minnesota winter and stepping into a land of warmth and palm trees was a gift. When I arrived on Sunday evening I walked around the plaza by the train station in Rabat where people had gathered to enjoy the last hours of the weekend. Many people – men & women -were dressed in the traditional djelaba, children chased pigeons & balloon sellers added to the festivities. It felt like a very peaceful place.

On Monday morning we got to work and despite the differences – and the peacefulness – on the surface, the issue of violence against women is the same in Morocco as it is around the world – and worse than in a lot of places.

  • A government study there showed that in 2011 almost 63 percent of women in Morocco ages 18- 64 had been victims of some form of violence in the preceding year. 63 percent in one year!
  • 55 percent of these acts of violence were committed by the victim’s husband & only 3 percent of the wives reported the violence.

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