Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has pulled a controversial draft-amendment that would not have considered ‘one-off’ attacks in households as domestic violence.
The bill was published on a government website on New Year’s Eve, just as almost everyone in the country was gearing up for Sylwester parties.
According to Gazeta Wyborca, the project planned to introduce the following changes to the act on domestic violence:
- a slight change in the name of the act (from the “Act on Counteracting Family Violence” to the “Act on Counteracting Domestic Violence”);
- in the section containing the definition of domestic violence, which refers to “a one-off or repeated intentional act or violation of rights or personal rights”, the word “one-off” has been deleted;
- the initiation of police and social worker monitoring (in family homes where domestic abuse is suspected) will no longer be possible without the consent of the victim;
- Responsibility for deciding whether a child’s health or life is in immediate danger has been transferred from social workers to police officers;
- the alleged perpetrator of the violence will have the right to access documentation about themselves;
The draft amendment sparked a number of journalists and commentators, including Marcin Onrwał from Onet, to query whether the law would allow people to lash out at their partners or children without any consequences.
Projekt @E_Rafalska nowel. ust. o przeciwdziałaniu przemocy w rodzinie:
Wg niego przemoc to "powtarzające się umyślne działanie".
Czyli jak facet raz czy dwa przyłoży kobiecie to żaden problem?
Tu całość: https://t.co/ZkGPKPzyBB
— Marcin Wyrwał (@Wyrwal) January 1, 2019
In response to Wyrwał’s query, Ombudsman Adam Bodnar replied: “Unfortunately, this is how it looks. Under the new statutory definition, ‘repeated intentional acts or omissions’ must occur. The word ‘one-off’ has been crossed out. Interestingly, there has been no justification for why such a change is necessary.”
Niestety tak to wygląda. Zgodnie z nową definicją ustawową musi wystąpić „powtarzające się umyślne działanie lub zaniechanie”. Słowo „jednorazowe” zostało wykreślone. Co ciekawe uzasadnienie do projektu ustawy milczy dlaczego taka zmiana jest konieczna.
— Adam Bodnar (@Adbodnar) January 1, 2019
Paweł Maczyński, the vice-chairman of the Polish Federation of Union Social Workers and Social Welfare, has expressed particular concern about the amendment making it necessary for the victim to give permission for the police and/or social workers to monitor their home. At the moment this procedure is usually initiated by a team of specialists at least a few days after the registration of information on domestic violence.
Maczyński claims that victims are often charmed by their partners in the days following the attack, making them less likely to go to the police – only for the victim to beaten again in the future.
Writing on Facebook last night, the organisers of the Black Protest women’s rights movement said that PiS are “legalising domestic abuse”. They also likened the draft amendment to one that Russia introduced in 2017.
Following all the criticism about the amendments, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki confirmed that the bill would “return to its authors in order to remove the dubious entries”. He also stated that his party see counteracting domestic violence as a priority.
Przeciwdziałanie przemocy domowej jest priorytetem rządu Prawa i Sprawiedliwości, a polskie prawo musi być klarowne i bez cienia wątpliwości w pełni chronić ofiary. Podjąłem decyzję, że projekt ustawy wróci do wnioskodawców w celu wyeliminowania wszystkich wątpliwych zapisów.
— Mateusz Morawiecki (@MorawieckiM) January 2, 2019
In another tweet, the PM also went on to say the following:
Every act of domestic violence – whether a”one-off” or repetitive – must be treated firmly and unambiguously. Victims are often intimidated, which is why the Blue Card defends the rights of the person who has been harmed. Victims of violence must feel that the state is on their side.
Elżbieta Rafalska, the Polish Government’s Minister of the Family and Social Affairs, will now have to redraft her amendments to the law on domestic violence. Those critical of the bill will be waiting to see precisely what changes have been made once the next version is drafted and made public.