It is a startling fact that one of the most dangerous places for a woman is her own home.
Nearly 40 percent of all murders of women worldwide are carried out by an intimate partner, according to the World Health Organization. One in three women across the globe has experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of her partner. And in the United States, some 1.3 million women are assaulted by their partner each year, according to CDC statistics.
Despite the prevalence of violence against women in their own homes, dozens of countries around the world do not have specific laws against domestic violence. For example Kenya has no provision to outlaw domestic abuse and according to the U.S. State Department, police in the country generally refrain from investigating cases of domestic violence, treating it as a private family matter. In Lebanon, debate rumbles on about finally passing a law to criminalize domestic violence, after a series of horrendous abuse cases hit the country’s headlines this year.
Liesl Gerntholtz, Executive Director of the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, explained to The WorldPost why it has been so important for countries to adopt specific legislation that targets domestic abuse. Gerntholtz pointed out that while ordinary criminal law does outlaw violence, and therefore domestic abuse should be treated as a crime, the issue has historically been ignored by governments and underreported by women. “Because the violence is so invisible you needed laws to enroll judges, police and other authorities to look for it and prosecute it,” she said.
“Violence against women is frighteningly simple and complex. Violence will stop when perpetrators stop,” she added.
The good news is that incredible progress has been made in recent years to outlaw domestic abuse. While specific domestic violence laws were uncommon just a few decades ago, a lot of countries have created legislation that specifically targets the issue. Saudi Arabia for example, a country known for its restrictions on women’s rights, passed a landmark bill in 2013 that outlaws domestic abuse.
One of the biggest challenges today is getting domestic violence laws implemented, such as making sure that women are able to go to the police to report violence or have access to shelters for protection, Gerntholtz notes. While public awareness of domestic violence has greatly improved, the shame attached to being beaten by your brother or husband is still a major challenge.
President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim echoed Gerntholtz’s observations during a humanitarian conference in Washington D.C this week. “If domestic violence continues to receive inadequate attention, it tells women they have less worth and less power than men,” Kim said. “It undermines their ability to make choices and act on them independently, impacting not only them, but their families, communities, and economies.”
Take a look at the countries that don’t outlaw domestic violence in the slideshow below.