7. Legal limitations and barriers

Many European countries have introduced legislation to provide protection against domestic violence. Nevertheless, in almost no European country domestic violence itself is a criminal   offence; it is the actions which are prosecuted, like bodily harm, marital rape etc. The fact that those offences take place in a relationship might be subject to aggravating circumstances in passing judgement on the case.

However, legislation on domestic violence is not accessible to same-sex partners in all countries, especially in those that do not recognise same-sex partnerships. This is true of many East European and the Baltic countries. So, for example, in Austria the police can impose an expulsion order for a period of ten days, however a temporary injunction under Section 383b of the Exekutionsordnung (Implementation Ordinance) can only be imposed on family members. Since same-sex partnerships are not recognised, this legal remedy is not available to lesbians/gays and transgender persons who experience violence in their relationship.

At the same time, some lesbian victims of domestic violence have great reservations in respect to the police and the judiciary. In many European countries, these were (and sometimes still are) instruments of persecution, i.e. have prosecuted homosexuality. Although the prosecution was/is mainly of male homosexuals, lesbian women also had to/have to reckon with legal prosecution. In Germany for example this occurred during the NS era, above all under classification as “Antisocial”.  Reported experience from various European countries, e.g. Spain, Italy, the UK, Austria, Belgium and Germany supports the assumption that lesbian victims continue to experience discrimination from the police, e.g. complaints are not accepted or they are confronted with extremely active interest in the lifestyle but very little interest in protecting the victim.

In some European countries, e.g. Germany and the UK, the police have responded to this reservation and have provided police contact persons for lesbians and gays. Nevertheless, it requires an intensive and long-term effort to reduce or eliminate this reservation.  Because in Germany many officers perform this role outside their “regular duties”, i.e. as voluntary work, intensive and continuous effort is not possible. This can only occur if this duty is included in regular work.

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Funded by:and
European Commission and the German Federal Ministry of Family, Seniors, Women and Youth.

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