On Tuesday, 12 April, Saeima’s Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee discussed the situation with domestic violence in the country. At the end of the meeting, members of the committee asked competent institutions to continue violence prevention measures and consider joining the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
«Latvia has a disturbingly large number of people suffering from domestic violence – it is one of the highest in Europe. Often people are too afraid to speak of their terrible experience, accept it as a norm or just think that no one can help them. Family should serve as a bastion for us. It is unacceptable when relatives become abusive and violent towards members of their own family,» – emphasized Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee Inese Laizane.
According to Viktorija Bolshakova, representative of Welfare Ministry’s Child and Family Policy Department, women and children suffer from domestic violence the most.
32% of women in Latvia had experienced physical/sexual abuse from their former or current partner at some point in life. 60% of women in Latvia had experienced some form of psychological abuse at some point in their life, according to results of a survey carried out by European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights in 2014.
According to Welfare Ministry’s information on tragic experiences of Latvian youngsters, almost one-third of them had suffered violence at the hands of their parents or other relatives while growing up.
The ministry’s representative emphasized that most cases of domestic violence are silenced. This is mostly due to the widespread idea in Latvia that violence is a norm and should be accepted. Unfortunately, often people are unable to identify emotional violence, and instead consider it to be an acceptable form of communication.
In addition, only 66% of residents in Latvia believe violence against women is unacceptable and should be punished. In Europe, on the other hand, the average percentage of residents that believe this is 84%, according to Eurobarometer’s 2010 data.
Domestic violence can cause serious damage to a person’s physical and mental health. It can distort a person’s psyche and negatively affect behaviour in the future. Often people who had suffered domestic violence while growing up become violent towards their own children, said a representative of Skalbes crisis centre and Marta resource centre for women.
Members of the Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee also expressed concerns that Latvia still has not joined Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Nevertheless, representatives of Justice Ministry assured those present at the meeting that work is currently being done to join it. Experts currently carry out an evaluation of possible effects this convention could have on Latvia’s legislation, as reported by Saeima’s press-service.