Rape and Domestic Violence: The law criminalizes rape or forcible sexual assault and establishes penalties for violations ranging from three years to life in prison. The law also criminalizes spousal rape.
Rape remained a problem, and there were no specific governmental rape prevention activities. From January-September, police registered 179 cases of rape, compared to 58 total registered cases in 2017.
In one prominent case, in August, a 15-year-old Romani girl and her mother from Soroca were kidnapped, raped, set on fire, and murdered. The perpetrator pled guilty to committing a hate crime and faces up to 25 years in prison on multiple criminal counts. The case was under investigation at year’s end.
A study released in 2017 by the international NGO La Strada noted that the legal system in the country did not provide an effective remedy for victims of sexual abuse. According to the study, in many cases, rape was requalified as sexual intercourse with a person younger than 16, which reduced the potential penalty, and victims’ statements on the lack of consent were not taken into account. In one in three cases, law enforcement officers initiated criminal investigations for less serious offenses than the ones reported by the victims. In 90 percent of the cases, the victims were not present at the preliminary hearings or the first court hearing on the case. Victims were commonly forced to confront their attacker in court.
Sexual violence was the least recognized and reported form of violence. According to police statements, more than 60 percent of cases went unreported. Upon adoption of the new strategy in combating violence against women, police selected officers to attend specialized trainings to improve investigations of sexual violence cases. In addition, community police campaigns distributed informational pamphlets, entitled Victims Letter of Rights, to encourage the reporting of sexual violence. Victims of sexual violence continued to experience extremely long delays in their cases due to lengthy evidence collection procedures and prosecutions, while the need for numerous interrogations and confrontations with their rapist added to the trauma they experienced.
The law defines domestic violence as a criminal offense, provides for the punishment of perpetrators, defines mechanisms for obtaining restraining orders against abusive individuals, and extends protection to unmarried individuals and children of unmarried individuals. The law regulates five forms of domestic violence--physical, psychological, sexual, economic, and spiritual. This law served as a platform for the development of legal relationships necessary to ensure access to justice for victims of domestic violence. The maximum punishment for family violence offenses is 15 years’ imprisonment.
As of September, police registered 1,742 cases of domestic violence, 604 of which were treated as criminal cases and 1,138 as misdemeanors. There were 15 cases of domestic violence that resulted in death. Police carried out prevention activities on persons who showed violent behavior in family relationships.
One case during the year involved two married former border police officers who had been divorced for three years because of domestic violence and had a five-year-old child. On March 8, after a restraining order on him had expired, the former husband visited his 29-year-old ex-wife, ostensibly to congratulate her on International Women’s Day. On March 9, the body of the ex-wife was found in a bag in the trash can. A criminal case was opened and was pending in court.
The law requires victims to prove they were subjected to violence, while the perpetrator is protected by the presumption of innocence. NGOs criticized that there is little chance to obtain protective measures in cases of acts of violence that do not involve physical violence, that result from physical violence committed for the first time, or that did not leave visible injuries on the victim’s body. According to NGOs, judges in the Chisinau Judicial Courts inconsistently applied the law by rejecting several applications requesting to issue a protection order for victims due to lack of evidence of violence. In cases where protective measures were applied, implementation continued to be a problem due to the lack of support networks and counselling services.
The law permits excluding an abuser from lodging shared with the victim, regardless of who owns the property. Law enforcement officials may apply emergency restriction orders requested by domestic violence victims.
A study published in September by the Women’s Law Center on domestic violence cases showed a decreasing number of victims received legal representation. The study attributed the decline to the misapplication of the law granting victims state legal support and representation. According to the study, defendants were represented by lawyers in 94 percent of the cases, compared to just 6 percent of cases where victims were represented.
The law provides for cooperation between government and civil society organizations, establishes victim protection as a human rights principle, and allows third parties to file complaints on behalf of victims. The NGO La Strada, for example, operated a hotline to report domestic violence, offered victims psychological and legal aid, and provided victims options for follow-up assistance. La Strada’s hotline registered 1,578 calls and assisted with legal and psychological counselling and advice for 545 victims of domestic violence. The Women’s Law Center offered legal, psychological and social support to 298 victims of domestic violence.
There was progress in building institutional capacity to protect women and children against domestic violence. The Ministry of Internal Affairs continued training for police officers handling domestic violence cases. According to various NGOs and UNICEF, the effectiveness of protective orders depended on the attitude of authorities. Police protection of victims and proper execution of protective orders improved slightly, with authorities issuing an increased number of protective orders within 24 hours as required by law. NGOs, however, expressed concern that authorities were insufficiently proactive in combating indifference toward domestic violence among prosecutors and social workers. There were cases reported of authorities not issuing protective orders until a month after the alleged mistreatment. NGOs also maintained that authorities relied excessively on them to publicize available remedies and to assist victims in requesting protection.
The law does not provide criminal penalties for abuse resulting in “nonsignificant bodily harm” (e.g., slapping, hair pulling, pushes) that does not leave marks or result in missed work. Under the law, abuse involving “nonsignificant” harm is punished administratively. According to NGOs, after release from detention, abusers commonly returned to their homes and continued to abuse.
During the year the Women’s Law Center in partnership with National Institute of Justice trained more than 100 judges, criminal investigators, and prosecutors on preventing and combating domestic violence.
Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment remained a common problem. The law provides criminal penalties for sexual harassment ranging from a fine to a maximum of three years’ imprisonment. The law prohibits sexual advances that affect a person’s dignity or create an unpleasant, hostile, degrading, or humiliating environment in a workplace or educational institution. According to NGOs, law enforcement agencies steadily improved their handling of sexual harassment cases, addressing harassment of students by university professors and several instances of workplace harassment. Civil society groups criticized the judicial system for displaying inadequate concern for the safety of victims and for not holding perpetrators accountable for their behavior.
In one example that received media attention, a university assistant in August accused a professor from the State Medical University of sexual harassment. The professor denied the allegations and demanded damage compensation of a million lei ($59,800) from the assistant. The ethics commission of the university requested additional evidence from the victim before completing its investigation, but she later refused to go forward with the case.
As of September, police registered 25 cases of sexual harassment, and eight cases were sent to trial. Victims reported that authorities sometimes failed to inform them about the progress and outcome of investigations of sexual harassment.
Coercion in Population Control: Cases of forced abortions and forced use of contraception were reported in prisons, psychiatric institutions, and social care homes.
Discrimination: Women and men enjoy the same legal status in family, labor, property, nationality, and inheritance law and in the judicial system. The law requires equal pay for equal work, which authorities generally respected. The law requires that women fill a minimum of 40 percent of decision making positions in government and political offices; bans publicity that promotes discriminatory messages or stereotypes; prohibits sexist and discriminatory language and images in the media and advertising; spells out employers’ responsibilities in ensuring workplaces are free of discrimination and sexual harassment; and introduces two-week state-paid paternity leave.
In 2017 the government approved the Gender Equality Strategy for 2017-2021 to promote a complex approach to gender equality; improve institutional mechanisms for ensuring gender equality; combat stereotypes and promote nonviolent communication; promote gender equality in the security and defense sectors; and provide for gender sensitive budgeting.
The UN Development Program National Human Development Report 2015/2016, released in June 2017, noted that, although women represented half the work force of the country, they were mostly employed in low-paying jobs. Women earned on average 12 percent less than men.