We're all in this together: a global comparison on domestic violence and the means necessary to combat it.

Author:Mahserjian, Caitlin

    "There is one universal truth, applicable to all countries, cultures and communities: violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable." (1) Statistics show that more than one in three women around the globe are victims of domestic violence. (2) Different cultural and socio-economic factors explain how and why domestic violence is perpetuated, perpetrated, and how it affects women globally. Regardless of differing approaches to combat it, statistics demonstrate that women from continent to continent experience similar rates of violence irrespective of social class, race, or religion. (3)

    This note will discuss the differing roles that governments play in perpetuating domestic violence. Specifically, how absence of legislation, insufficient legislation, and failure to enforce existing legislation results in victims being left unprotected at the hands of their government. This note will analyze and compare three specific and diverse countries: the United States, the Russian Federation, and the Arabic Republic of Egypt, by looking at each country's constitution, criminal or penal codes, and international treaties. Finally, this note will discuss how legislation and governmental involvement protects, or fails to protect, victims. While it is recognized that both women and men suffer domestic abuse, this paper will solely refer to women as victims.

    Section II will analyze domestic violence legislation and enforcement of legislation in the United States. Although the United States has promulgated both federal and state domestic violence legislation, statistics show that American victims are not necessarily better protected in comparison to other woman in other countries. (4) The high rate of domestic violence in the United States is a result of poor enforcement of laws. While there are a myriad of enforcement issues that could be analyzed, this paper will focus on two: Native American women and their access to the justice system, and protection orders and firearms under 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(8).

    Section III will analyze domestic violence laws and enforcement within the Russian Federation. The Russian Constitution calls for gender equality, (5) and the government is party to the United Nation's Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women ("CEDAW"). (6) Nevertheless, Russia struggles to combat a high incidence of domestic violence. This is due to the fact that there is no Russian legislation tailored to prevent domestic violence or to aid victims. (7) Additionally, victims endure seemingly insurmountable burdens when they attempt to access the criminal justice system. (8)

    Section IV will analyze the current status of domestic violence in the Arab Republic of Egypt. Similarly to Russia, Egypt's Constitution has a gender equality clause, and Egypt is a party to CEDAW. (9) However, the Egyptian government has done little to protect victims with legislation. (10) An explanation of this lies within the entanglement of government and religion in Egypt--along with much of the Middle East. (11) The Egyptian Constitution contains a provision that mandates all legislation conform to Sharia law, (12) and patriarchal interpretations of Sharia law often condone violence against women and promote a male dominated society. (13) The result is a general nationwide ignorance of the seriousness of domestic violence and the knowledge necessary to combat it.

    Finally, Section V of this note will analyze the procedures that are currently in place to combat domestic violence on a global scale and scrutinize the ways in which they are ineffective, while suggesting avenues that may have a greater impact. These strategies include self-governing preventative measures, the use of punitive sanctions imposed on individuals who commit acts of domestic violence, or countries who allow systematic acts of domestic violence, and finally the use of international criminal courts to prosecute individuals and governments.


    The United States' reputation as a "superpower" (14) with the longest full-fledged democracy in the world (15) does not result in immunity from the domestic violence epidemic. Principally, the United States Constitution is one of the only constitutions in the world with no gender equality clause. (16) While the Fourteenth Amendment includes the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses, (17) domestic violence victims seeking remedies under either provision have been largely unsuccessful. (18)

    Although the United States Constitution does not directly protect victims, there is both federal and state legislation in place that does. (19) However, despite those laws, more than one in four American women are victims of domestic violence--close to the same percentage of women that are affected globally. (20) These statistics verify that notwithstanding legislation, American women are not safer than women from other regions around the world. Because of the United States' global status, seemingly infinite resources and strong democracy, it raises the question--why? As this section will analyze, the United States faces a multitude of issues regarding enforcement of legislation. Furthermore, our international allies continue to wonder why the United States refuses to ratify CEDAW, while 187 of the 194 countries around the world have ratified the convention. (21)

    1. Domestic Violence Legislation in the United States

      All fifty states, as well as the United States Federal Government have some sort of domestic violence legislation in place. (22) The laws are not necessarily prohibitive, although some states have criminalized domestic violence. (23) Mainly, legislation is in place for the general protection of victims and the prevention of domestic violence. (24) For example, in all states, police are required to follow statutory arrest procedures when responding to domestic disturbances. (25) On a federal level, the government promulgated the Violence Against Women Act ("VAWA") in Title IV of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994. (26) The Act provided grants to police and prosecutors for domestic violence training, introduced federal rape shield laws, and mandated reporting, to name a few provisions. (27) VAWA has been reauthorized three times since its original promulgation--in 2000, 2005, and most recently in 2013. (28)

      Enacting state and federal legislation to protect domestic violence victims is vital to prevention because it announces on an international level what kind of behavior the government, and the people of that nation, will not tolerate. In other countries where there are no domestic violence laws, the lack of recognition itself seems to perpetuate violence against women. (29)

      1. The Refusal of the United States to Ratify CEDAW

      Legislation is key to preventing domestic violence, but the United States' continual refusal to ratify CEDAW is concerning. (30) The treaty "defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination." (31) The treaty seeks to end all forms of discrimination against women; by signing the treaty, members (State parties) effectively commit to take necessary measures to protect women against all forms of discrimination. (32) President Carter signed the treaty in 1980, and while subsequent presidents have contemplated ratifying it, they have either failed, or have been thwarted by Congress. (33) The United States is currently one of only seven countries that have not ratified CEDAW. (34) Therefore, while American politicians favor protecting victims, evidenced by the ratification of VAWA and its progeny, it remains a conundrum why the government refuses to join the overwhelming majority. This is even more perplexing considering that American politicians were actively involved in the drafting of the treaty. (35)

      The United States may refuse to ratify CEDAW because the United States government does not want to be legally bound by the policies set forth in the treaty. The U.N. requires that each country formulate reports on the measures that that country will take to implement CEDAW policies. (36) Additionally, the provisions legally bind each country. (37) Failing to ratify CEDAW is concerning, however what is even more concerning is the realization that legislation currently in place is not being properly enforced.

    2. The Perpetuation of Domestic Violence in the United States is Partially Due to Poor Enforcement of Laws

      Federal and state legislation put the United States in an ideal position to help prevent domestic violence. However, enforcement of legislation is an issue. This note will not encompass a comprehensive analysis on all enforcement issues, rather it will focus on two: Native American women whose access to the justice system is burdened, and victims with protection orders whose abusers retain firearms in violation of 18 U.S.C. 922(g)(8).

      1. Failure to Enforce Federal and State Domestic Violence Laws Against Non-Natives Leaves Native American Women Unprotected

        Compared to non-Native American women, Native American women are seven times more likely to be subject to domestic violence. (38) Not only are they more likely to be abused, they are significantly less likely to be protected by the legal system. (39) Studies indicate that this is due to gaps in reservation, state, and federal laws. (40) Receipt of protection often turns on what jurisdiction the offense was committed in and whether the perpetrator is Native. (41) Due to loopholes, "[i]t's almost like non-Native people have a license to brutalize Native women." (42)

        Loopholes make it difficult to prosecute non-Native perpetrators under American laws when they commit crimes against Native women on reservations. (43) The federal government has transferred their authority to a small number of states for crimes committed involving Natives on reservations. (44) This means that the...

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