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Romanian Man Goes Unconvicted After Eight Counts of Domestic Violence

The European Court of Human Rights has declared Romania to have a “lack of commitment” in addressing domestic violence after a man who assaulted his wife eight times was not convicted of any crime.

The man’s wife, Angelica Camelia Bălșan, reported her husband’s actions to the police multiple times to no avail. The authorities found, “both at the investigation level and before the national courts, that she had provoked the domestic violence and that it was not serious enough to come under the scope of the criminal law.”

Bălșan reported that her husband abused both her and her children throughout their marriage, which began in 1979, but that the violence intensified in 2007.

Bălșan contacted the head of police to request protection from her husband and to log formal criminal complaints, though they were met with no success. She reported that her husband assaulted her a total of eight times during this period from 2007-2008, and that some of the injuries required up to ten days’ of medical care.

The courts in Romania acquitted her husband of committing bodily harm for the three charges occurring in 2007, and decided not to press charges for the five accounts of abuse in 2008.

This is not surprising news to women in Romania. The World Economic Forum’s statistics on equality of chances between men and women place Romania last in the European Union, in 72nd place worldwide.

The problem is deep-rooted and multifaceted. One part of the problem is that women are vastly underrepresented in the Romanian government. Only 12 percent of lawmakers are women. According to an article by Romania Insider,  Romanian law states that it must take “in consideration the different capacities, needs and aspirations of men and women and their equal treatment.”

The lack of women in government gives sexist men a big advantage because they are able to more easily carry out the outdated, discriminatory laws as they see fit. In this case, it took the European Court of Human Rights to create a sliver of justice for Bălșan.

The court declared that Romania owed Bălșan $11,000 in damages, a paltry amount for the suffering she endured. They unanimously agreed that there had been, “a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights because of the authorities’ failure to adequately protect Bălșan against her husband’s violence, [and] a violation of Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) because the violence had been gender-based.”

The court ruled that the Romanian authorities were well aware of the abuse Bălșan was enduring and failed to react accordingly, stating that the authorities, “failed to fully appreciate the seriousness and extent of [the] domestic violence.”

Though Romania has recently adopted new measures to combat domestic violence, such as allowing women to get a restraining order in just three days, the attitude toward domestic violence often prevents the authorities from taking necessary action. In fact, 60 percent of Romanians still consider domestic violence to be normal behavior. In order to end domestic violence, attitudes and laws have to change.

Featured Image by Linzi on Flickr

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