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Ending Domestic Violence and Violence towards Women and Children – What Other Countries are Doing


Domestic Violence and Violence against Women and Children are a major problem in many parts of the world and just like Australia, many countries have created National Plans to counter it. 

I must confess, I have not read many of these – just one subsection in Australia’s ran to 283 pages, but there is considerable similarity between them. For example, they almost always include Helplines, Emergency Shelter and support, changes to legislature, and efforts to improve Gender Equality, workplace culture and the underlying norms which contribute to the mistreatment of women. With the broad brushstrokes already established, this post will mainly be about recent changes and some of the more innovative programs.


The European Union and associated countries – 45 to date, have recently ratified the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence – more generally known as the Istanbul Convention, which came into effect in October last year. It criminalises all forms of gender – based violence, including violence in war and also bans practices such as forced marriage, female genital mutilation and online harassment. As far as Domestic Violence goes, it also includes threats of violence, coercion or arbitrary  deprivation of liberty.

 Its definition of domestic violence includes : "all acts of physical, sexual, emotional and financial harm,” which occur within the family unit, irrespective of whether the perpetrator lives there or not.

Although first opened for signatures in 2011, it has taken over ten years for member states to reach agreement across the EU because each country had its own laws. The UK became a signatory in July 2022. Ironically, Turkey - one of the original signatories, has since dropped out under pressure from conservative groups, which may hold back Turkey’s admission to the EU.  

The Convention requires each country to:

·         Develop laws, policies and support services which end violence towards women

·         Prevent violence, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators and includes helplines, crisis centres, online reporting and improved access to justice

·         Deals with issues such as stalking and forced marriage. The are also new rules about non – consensual release of intimate material and ‘Cyber flashing”  

·         It also requires countries to promote Gender Equality and women’s social, legal and economic rights

Unfortunately it does not extend to undocumented migrants, who are often among the most abused and exploited groups.


A major plank in Nepal’s Plan which is largely based on the Istanbul Convention, has been to challenge the still very prevalent notion that it is acceptable to beat one’s wife for disobedience. One in four women have reported having been beaten at home. To counter this, it is holding community meetings with newlyweds, men’s and women’s groups, religious leaders, scholars and other influential people to encourage change and to promote gender equality.


One of India’s very effective ideas is to have Women Only Police stations. The first one was established in Kerala by Indira Gandhi in 1973. At last count (2023) there were 750, though there were still many places  without one including – Delhi, despite rising crime rates against women. Not only is it more likely that women will report crime to female police officers - up 22% according to a 2018 study,  because women are less likely to be blamed, discouraged or turned away, but there have also been more arrests. 

India’s Justice for Her program began in 2016 to train police officers and lawyers to enable them to help  women more effectively.

India has also developed a number of digital technologies to keep women and children safe. Perhaps the best known is Safecity developed by NGO the Red Dot Foundation which is now being used in 86 countries including Malaysia, Kenya, Nepal and the UK. By crowdsourcing  information about incidents of sexual harassment and abuse in real time, it lets authorities know where more resources are needed such as police patrols, better lighting, improved transport and so on, and to warn others - especially women, about which areas to avoid.

Several other social media and mobile apps also raise awareness about violence against women, encourage reporting or provide information on available services.

MySafetyPin is a popular one which not only advises users which areas are safe to visit but also has an alert button which connects to the nearest police station. CitizenCOP allows discreet location -based crime reporting. Shake 2 Safety can make emergency calls or send alerts or allow loved ones to track your progress simply by shaking the phone or pressing its power button 4 times. Hinmat, intended for working women and launched by Delhi Police, sends your location and video of your surroundings in the event of an incident, directly to the Delhi Police control room who then send an officer. [This might be an idea for Australian DV victims who have taken out AVOs, so that they receive a rapid response. It would also create verifiable evidence]. These are but a few of a whole range of products which could be helpful to others. Click here for more.


Peru has one of the highest rates of Domestic Violence in Latin America with over 200,000 cases a year being reported and Domestic Violence being one of the main reasons (in 70% of cases) why children are removed from the family home. It too, has a culture in which Domestic Violence is seen as acceptable and even justified, so it’s National Plan includes  “the creation of protective communities” where people are trained to identify instances of domestic violence in their neighbourhood and seek help for those involved. 

In the interests of keeping families together, individual guidance and psychological counselling tailored to each family’s needs is provided by SOS Children’s Villages (Peru). This organisation is justifiably proud of its Active Fatherhood workshops which seek to change the underlying beliefs about masculinity and men’s role in the household. Some 300 men who have completed the program, report improvements at home. Organisers do their best to make these events fun, by for example, having a football match for participants at the end of a session.


Mexico is another hotspot when it comes to domestic violence. Although Femicide – the murder of women and girls, was criminalised in 2012, female deaths, at least 40% of which are the result of partner violence, still exceed 10 per day. With authorities slow to respond and  only 4 -5% of cases resulting in prosecution, strong community organisations have emerged.  Red Alerta Feminista, a group of female activists provides rapid response to incidents of violence and through community members, neighbours and local organisations, collaborates to protect potential victims and report threats. It also provides community -based safe houses and shelters, counselling, legal assistance and support networks.

In 2020, in the wake of two particularly shocking murders, activists spontaneously took over Mexico’s Human Rights Commission building and turned it into a women’s shelter. They also demanded justice for their cases, gender -sensitive training for police and expansion of abortion rights. 

Another group which has gained a large following throughout Latin America, including Mexico is Ni Una Menos which means “Not One Less.” Begun in Argentina in 2015 – also as a result of a femicide, it organised demonstrations and a mass strike which quickly spread around Latin America and even Spain in protest against the lack of police action and women’s rights. In Mexico in 2020, in response to more deaths, it organised a national women’s strike – women did not go to work, school or any public space for 24 hours. 

Quite a few things have changed since then. A Special Prosecutor’s Office has been established for example, to deal exclusively with crimes against women. Abortion was decriminalised in September 2023 and many more women have entered parliament. Partly because of a federal mandate in 1990 calling for 50% female representation by 2014, half of Mexico’s congress is now female and seven out 32 governorships are also held by women, which may mean more improvements in future.

Some women aren’t waiting. To gain a little economic independence, they have set up small, somewhat illegal markets in public spaces, but are rarely prosecuted. However, these mercaditos’ feministas as they are called, aren’t just about making money. They are also about building networks, getting advice and creating solidarity among women. 

Female friendly zones and 'pink' public transportation networks have been established in MEXICO, BRAZIL, EL SALVADOR and GUATEMALA as women have often been attacked on their way to and from work.  

Sign on a women's only rail car in Japan. This could be a good idea in places where harassment on public transport is a problem 

-Image Claus Anders - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0,


Saudi Arabian women have won the right to drive and to go out without a male chaperone.


Roots Africa, is a ZIMBABWE based grassroots organisation which provides training, rescue from abusive homes and shelter for 30 women and children. In 2016 it pushed through a constitutional amendment which bans child marriage and is now working on legalising abortion, which at present is only available if the mother or child’s health is at risk or there is proof of rape.

In SOUTH AFRICA where sexual assaults on women have greatly increased – more than 53,000 were reported in 2020 along with 3,000 murders of women, Joanie Fredericks who previously began a ladies only driving school so women would be less at risk, has now started Ladies Own Transport Services -a women’s only taxi service. 

In Soweto, the largest township, a Vuvuzela – a type of horn, is blown in neighbourhoods to let women know that a local patrol group is ready to escort them safely through the streets.

Illitha Labanto shelters abused women, builds their self -esteem  and provides them with skills for economic independence. As Director, Ella Mangisa says, “ Why should women have to run away. The perpetrator should be removed from the house.”

In South Africa’s Western Cape Province, school and university students are taught about consent, sexual violence and communication.

KENYA has “Teach Outside the Box” - a comprehensive sex education program which includes Consent and Gender Equality.


Given that Canada’s murder rate for women and girls is even higher than Australia’s – one woman every two days making 190 in 2020, it is also making a big effort. With the likelihood of injury or death being compounded by the presence of firearms, stricter gun laws are being introduced - among them a system of red and yellow flags which would allow concerned friends and relatives to apply to to the courts to have guns removed at short notice or to have licences suspended. Stricter controls are also proposed about movement of guns through municipalities which ban them. Otherwise Canada’s National Plan is very similar to Australia’s with a just a couple of tweaks. 

There is for example, more emphasis on helping families to resolve their problems and it offers more resources for men and boys affected by domestic violence. 

Community organisation The Canadian Women’s Foundation plays a major role by investing in violence prevention programs, intervening in situations of gender – based violence by providing emergency shelter and support and helping women to rebuild their lives after abuse, sexual assault or exploitation. It also looks after child witnesses to violence and runs healthy relationship education programs for teens.  The latter has a  focus on preventing all kinds of violence including bullying, dating violence, peer violence and group violence. 

ShelterSafe is an online platform – a clickable map, which allows those who are escaping from an abusive or violent situation to find the nearest shelter. Among many excellent community services it also has a volunteer removal and storage service to make things easier.


 So concerned is the UK about Domestic Violence that its prevention has been made a national priority on a par with combating terrorism and organised crime. As of April 2021, it has updated it's criminal code to include physical, emotional, sexual, and emotional harm. Coercive control for example, can now attract a prison sentence of 1-2 years. Serious offenders can be added to a register similar to that for child abuse and may be electronically monitored. Breaches of civil orders will constitute a criminal offence. 

The UK has also introduced a Domestic Violence Disclosure Law - better known as "Clare's Law," which allows police to inform people at risk of harm, if a current or former partner has committed domestic violence offences. It also gives individuals, friends and relatives the right to enquire about a person, though not all requests may be granted.  For the background to Clare's Law and why it became necessary click here. There are calls now to have it introduced in Ontario.

Other initiatives include a major communications campaign and expansion of the Hestia Safe Spaces program to 7000 locations across the UK. Mostly located in pharmacies and banks, the latter is an interesting a private sector initiative which gives people experiencing domestic abuse a private space to make discreet phone calls or seek help. Five hundred select pharmacies also offer  'ASK FOR ANI" service -a code word system similar to that used by the French during lockdown, for those needing immediate help. In the UK as in other countries, services are converging, with specialist staff  trained to look after those who have experienced abuse and there is also a 24/7 hotline.  

This list is by no means exhaustive -I haven't even looked at the USA yet as I fear there will be different sets of laws for each of its 50 states, but the idea is to show how seriously other countries are taking the matter of Domestic Violence and some the ways in which they are tackling it. While much of it has been about helping women and dealing with emergency situations, there are also some programs which involve men in preventing violence, helping women to achieve equality and to challenge the underlying cultural norms which condone or dismiss violence towards women and children. We'll talk a bit more about those next time.