The Working group that is drafting a proposal for the National strategy for protection from domestic violence from 2017-2022 held its third meeting at the Ministry of Demography, Family, Youth and Social Policy. Given than the working text of the Strategy has been drafted at this stage, the members of the Working group discussed concrete individual measures with the aim of their further improvement and providing the best possible protection for victims of domestic violence. The Gender Equality Ombudswoman suggested measures related to the housing of victims of domestic violence, financial support for the shelters and counselling centers, as well as encouraging local and regional self-governing units to run a gender budget within which continuous financial support would be provided for the shelters. The mentioned measures were fully respected.
Measures related to the procedure of ratification the Convention of the Council of Europe on the Prevention and Combating of Violence against women and Domestic violence have also been proposed and adopted and within which the establishment of a Working group for legislating the confirmation of the Convention , which the Ombudswoman representative has been named into. Suggestions of the Ombudswoman regarding the legislative framework in the area of protection against domestic violence were also discussed. The Ombudswoman’s representative and a member of the Working group, counselor Martina Krnić, had once again made a proposal regarding the enablement of free legal assistance to victims of domestic violence in misdemeanor and criminal proceedings as well as offering the possibility to victims of domestic violence the right to appeal in all cases. The proposed Amendment of the Gender Equality Act has been specifically emphasized and discussed in order to specify the authorized prosecutor for filling the indictment proposal in Art. 31. of the Gender Equality Law, as well as the appropriate sanctions and protective measures for perpetrators with the aim of a more effective sanctioning of partner violence.
The problem of partner violence sanctioning was also dealt with in the Ombudswoman’s Work Report for 2015 where she noted that despite the great similarity of married and unmarried people in cohabitation, unmarried partners lack adequate legal protection (in misdemeanor and criminal proceedings) in the Republic of Croatia. That is, in the Republic of Croatia there has yet to be made an adequate and consistent legislative solution for protecting victims of partner violence. Until the necessary legislative changes are made the protection of partner violence victims is provided in two ways: the first way is that if the police establishes it to be a partnership (current or former) that has elements of extramarital cohabitation, then the partnership is considered an extramarital cohabitation with accordingly provided protection based on the Law on Protection from Domestic Violence. However, such a practice isn’t universal and it differs from one police department to another. In that sense, the Gender Equality Ombudswoman had given appropriate warnings and recommendations to the police in the previous years.
The second way is that the misdemeanor provision from Article 31 of the Gender Equality Act can be applied to cases of violence within a partnership. The Ombudswoman’s opinion is that partner violence shouldn’t be “shoved” under Domestic violence, but that partner violence in which the victim was in an emotional or love relationship for only a few months should be appropriately sanctioned under the Gender Equality Act which would necessarily have to be supplemented in order to designate an authorized prosecutor (we suggest the Ministry of the Interior) who would impose sanctions and safeguards. As a follow-up, the Gender Equality Ombudsperson has also proposed the implementation of the mentioned legislative change (as a Strategy measure)
In the context of the previously mentioned, that is the question of an authorized prosecutor- the Ombudswoman notes that some misdemeanor courts have firmly taken the position that the police is not an authorized prosecutor under the Article 31 of the Gender Equality Act. In that sense, the Ombudswoman had already earlier submitted a recommendation to the High Misdemeanor Court of the Republic of Croatia in which she had with explained with detail the problems and obstacles to applying the Article 31 of said Act. In the cases in which the misdemeanor courts do not consider the police as an authorized prosecutor, the Ombudswoman proposed and proposes that the police initiates a motion to the State Attorney’s Office in order to initiate misdemeanor proceedings as the competent state attorney has a right to file for all offenses.