Domestic and gender-based violence is a deeply rooted problem that exists in every country of the world. In Moldova, approximately 63% of women have suffered from at least one form of violence from their partner, while 40% were physically abused. Recent research indicates that 28% of men and 18% of women surveyed agree that a woman should tolerate violence in order to preserve the family. Shockingly, 41% of men and 19% of women affirm there are times when a woman should be beaten up. These perceptions lead to only 8% of women suffering abuse from their partners reporting it to the police. Few women feel comfortable discussing it with friends or relatives. In addition, oftentimes women are economically dependent on men and are unable to break the circle of violence. This makes them live with suffering and fear.
The Women’s Law Centre (WLC) is a non-governmental organisation established in 2009 to provide pro bono legal and psychological support to women who survived domestic and gender-based violence and to advocate for better national laws on domestic violence. A number of female lawyers from the Republic of Moldova who had the courage to speak out about domestic violence established the organisation. During 2017, the WLC provided assistance to 465 beneficiaries, of whom 186 were women with young children.
Mrs. Lidia, aged 78, recently reached out to WLC to thank the staff for their assistance in helping her escape an abusive situation at home. She had previously lived with her 43 year old son, who was a heavy drinker. As he was unemployed, he would demand money from his mother to pay for his alcohol, and if she refused, he would beat her and threaten her with death or sexual aggression. In fear of her son and without wanting to trouble her relatives, she used to sleep on the street or at the railway station. Mrs. Lidia reached out to the WLC after confiding in her daughter. The centre helped her file for a protection order against her son, so that he would no longer be able to live in the house. However, when her son refused to leave the house and continued to abuse his mother, she was placed in an emergency domestic violence shelter. The WLC team filed complaints to the police about her son’sviolating the protection order and he was finally arrested and sentenced to a year and 8 months of imprisonment. Mrs. Lidia reports being well now, taking care of her garden and feeling safe.
The WLC is a tremendously brave organisation, which is run by women for women. It is an act of courage to raise the issue of domestic and gender-based violence and gender equality in an environment with strong patriarchal culture and prevailing stereotypes about the roles of men and women. Despite facing intimidation, the WLC team continue to speak out and provide vital services to vulnerable women.
Women's Law Center is a finalist for #WalkTogether Prize for Courage as part of The Grassroots Justice Prize.