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Frontpage News 2010 Support centre for victims of domestic violence

Marta1.JPG

Support centre for victims of domestic violence

The EEA and Norway Grants support a domestic violence support and advocacy project in Latvia. Latvian NGO Marta provides free legal counselling to 200 women each year.

The year long project, set to end in December 2010, aims to provide support services for women experiencing domestic violence and to firmly place the issue of domestic violence on the political and social agenda in Latvia.

Drastic increase in demand for free legal help

As the economic crisis set in, the Riga-based resource centre for women Marta experienced a considerable increase in demand for its free psychological and legal assistance. In 2008, 135 women faced with domestic violence sought help from the centre. The following year the number increased to 238, and so far in 2010, 108 women have turned to the centre for free legal support.

Almost forced to close doors

Domestic violence has yet to work its way to the political agenda in Latvia and Marta relies on donations from international foundations to survive. The centre has experienced financial difficulties, and right before Marta started receiving support from the EEA and Norway Grants in 2008, there were talks about having to close down the centre.

The €100,000 grant from Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein instead ensured a continuation of the centre’s free legal counselling and physiological aid. The centre is currently at its full capacity and is able to help an estimated 200 women each year.

Pilot support system in Cēsis

The grant is also applied in the centre's work in engaging grassroots women organisations across Latvia in forming a support system for domestic violence victims at the level of local self-governments. A pilot programme has been set up in Cēsis municipality in cooperation with the women’s resource centre Prieks.

Initiated anti-stalking legislation

The EEA and Norway Grants-financed project is also comprised of activities to initiate public debate and lobby for stronger measures to eliminate domestic violence.

One of Marta’s lobbying achievements within the project is related to stalking. Today, stalking of women who have managed to escape a violent relationship is not a criminal activity in Latvia. But following a stakeholder seminar organised by Marta in February 2010, work on the concept has begun in a work group at the Ministry of Justice. In addition, the resource centre plans to submit amendment proposal to the Criminal Law on 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women) stating that stalking is a criminal activity.

The project is supported under the EEA and Norway Grants’ NGO fund in Latvia.

Photo: Resource centre for women Marta.