Sadly, gender-based violence is widespread in Ukraine, affecting both men and women, though mainly women. The UN estimates that a staggering 22% of Ukrainian women aged 15-49 have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence in their lifetime.
Saturday 25 November was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, so now is a good time to reflect on what can be done to address the problem. The causes for violence against women are many and complex and undoubtedly, the crisis that the country is going through exacerbates existing issues.
Two things are however clear – one is that there are still taboos around speaking openly about violence against women. The second is that officials working in law enforcement and the criminal justice system have a key role to play in achieving a solution.
On the issue of speaking up about the problem, a huge challenge is that the majority of violence against women takes place within the home. As a result, many Ukrainians consider it to be a purely private matter. In a survey conducted by the Ukrainian NGO La Strada, 39% of criminal justice practitioners believe domestic violence is a private affair and 60% believe that victims can be blamed for provoking the violence against themselves.
In 2015, only about 4.5% of cases of domestic violence were reported, as estimated by La Strada. And while domestic violence is only a small part of the bigger picture of gender-based violence, according to the UNDP, less than 30% of female victims in Ukraine actually report cases of violence (including domestic violence, sexual violence, rape, sexual harassment or other forms of violence).
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