By some measures, Moldova is a broken country. It is the poorest country in Europe and has had no government since October, when the prime minister was ousted as a result of a banking scandal. There is corruption from the highest levels of government to the police officers on the street.
Yet Global Rights for Women saw a different face of Moldova when our team traveled there in December to train police, prosecutors, judges, forensic doctors and social service providers in best practices in responding to sexual violence. We saw hope, commitment and real progress toward keeping Moldovan women safe from violence. As US Ambassador to Moldova, James Pettit, said in his end-of-year message, “despite its problems, Moldova has immense potential. Your resources, your human capital, your spirit of creativity and hard work – subtract the problems, and Moldova could be a prosperous, democratic, European country.”
Global Rights for Women carried out this training at the invitation of the Moldovan NGO, La Strada, and through the generous financial support of the US embassy. La Strada has worked on the issue of sexual violence and trafficking for over 25 years in Moldova. They identified the need for stronger laws on sexual assault and invited Global Rights for Women to work with them to improve these laws and policies.
We also have the good fortune to work with the Women’s Law Center, an NGO committed to ensuring that women’s right to be free from violence is recognized in the drafting and implementation of laws in Moldova. GRW staff has worked with the Women’s Law Center for 8 years. In 2012, Cheryl Thomas directed a monitoring report on implementation of Moldova’s domestic violence laws in collaboration with the Women’s Law Center. Angelina Zaporojan, program director of the Women’s Law Center refers to Cheryl as the “godmother” of the organization.
Moldova has achieved real progress in keeping women safe from violence. It passed its violence against women law in 2008 and strengthened it in 2010. One of the key provisions of that law is a civil protection order issued by the courts. These orders prohibit offenders from contact with their victims including, in some cases, requiring them to move out of the home that they share. In 2010 only four protection orders were issued. By 2014, there were 920! The Women’s Law Center credits police training, along with a stronger law, for this increase. As this progress continues it will have a ripple effect throughout the country and region.
When we began our sexual violence training last month, a prosecutor said that she could not prove rape without evidence of physical struggle by the victim. By the end of the training she asked for a copy of Minnesota’s sex crimes law, which requires only that a prosecutor prove that the victim did not consent to the sexual contact. One step toward a change in attitude and perhaps a change in the Moldovan law.
This prosecutor’s willingness to look more closely at her country’s law and how she is applying it shows us that our trainings make a difference. Alongside the strong NGO advocates for women who work daily with victims and push their government and legal system to do a better job, Global Rights for Women is contributing to improving the lives of women in Moldova. We see the human capital, spirit of creativity and hard work that Ambassador Pettit referred to in the advocates of La Strada and the Women’s Law Center. Global Rights for Women is deeply grateful for the opportunity to support them in their dedication and commitment to preventing and combating violence against women