19:55 / 13.09.2023.

Author: Katja Miličić

Sweeping legislative changes to increase protections for women and punishment for abusers

Nineteen women were murdered in Croatia last year, four in 2023

Nineteen women were murdered in Croatia last year, four in 2023

Foto: Frame studio / SHUTTERSTOCK

The Government is taking steps to curb violence against women with a set of amendments to existing legislation that will increase protections for victims and introduce tougher punishment for perpetrators.

Among the changes are making femicide a specific crime, making sexual harassment a crime and not just a misdemeanor, and making rape punishable by up to 12 years in prison. Furthermore, violations of restraining orders will result automatically in jail time. Also, there would be no statute of limitations on the sexual abuse of children.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković presented the changes on Wednesday to institutions and NGOs that work in this field.

"The rights of victims are being strengthened and expanded,” he said.

 Victims will have the right to appeal a restraining order ruling. When a restraining order is violated, courts will have 24 hours to swap the restraining order for investigative custody, the PM said, adding that police will also have the right to make an arrest if there is suspicion that a restraining order has been violated.

Furthermore, victims will be notified when their abusers have been released from custody. Restraining orders would have a minimum distance of 50 meters. Also, measures will be strengthened to protect the identity of victims.

In the last 20 years, 400 women have been murdered, most at the hands of abusers. Last year the number was 13 women, this year it is four. The Government says this is why they are initiating the largest-ever overhaul of legislation relating to family violence and violence against women.

Women's rights activists Neva Tolle and Jelena Veljača say they are satisfied with the changes.

"I'm shocked...in a good way. I really was not expecting this many positive changes that will facilitate an easier escape for women and children living in violent situations," said Tolle, while Veljača added she was less surprised with the outcome, given that her organization was closely involved in talks that led to the drafting of these changes.

The changes are now going into the public comment process and if adopted, should go into effect early next year.

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