Hungary: Domestic violence, including in Roma communities; implementation of legislation; state protection and support services, including in Miskolc, Debrecen and Budapest (2014-June 2015)
1. Domestic Violence in Roma Communities
Sources state that there has been no systematic research on the situation of Roma victims of domestic violence in Hungary (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 3; Human Rights Watch 8 June 2015). In a telephone interview with the Research Directorate, a researcher on Eastern Europe for Human Rights Watch, who conducted research on domestic violence in Hungary for a 2013 report on the topic, stated that it is "very, very difficult" to obtain information on the situation of domestic violence among Roma populations, as these women are "invisible" in domestic violence research (ibid.).
Sources report that Roma women face multiple discrimination (ibid.; Associate Professor 22 June 2015; UN 1 Mar. 2013, para. 36) and exclusion (ibid.). According to the 2013 concluding observations of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) on the situation of women in Hungary, Roma women are "disproportionately affected by poverty and a low standard of living," and have limited access to services, especially in rural areas (ibid.). Human Rights Watch notes that Roma women are "particularly disadvantaged" in accessing protection from domestic violence, adding that "poverty, unemployment, and social exclusion" increase the risk of violence against women (Nov. 2013, 11). A 2013 study by the European Parliament on the empowerment of Roma women in Hungary states that Roma women are in a condition of "high vulnerability and therefore exposed to violence," including domestic violence (EU 2013, 34).
Domestic violence within Roma communities is considered to be a "family" issue (Human Rights Watch 8 June 2015; IMECE et al. Nov. 2010, 64), or something to be "endured" (ibid.). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, NANE Women's Rights Association, Hungarian Women's Lobby (HWL), and PATENT Association  provided a joint response on the situation of domestic violence, in which they express the view that Roma women "seem to see even less chance of getting out" of situations of domestic violence than non-Roma women, due to societal and economic reasons (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 1). In correspondence with the Research Directorate, a policy officer for HWL provided information from the head of the Colourful Pearls Association for Roma Women in Southern Hungary, an organization that works to integrate Roma women, and which ran a project to raise awareness for Roma women about finding assistance for domestic violence (Colourful Pearls Association 15 June 2015). The head of Colourful Pearls Association stated that Roma women face societal and family pressure to stay in abusive relationships, and may be less informed about the "scarce" resources for assistance (ibid.). Similarly, in correspondence with the Research Directorate, an associate professor of government and law at Lafayette College, in Pennsylvania, who has published a book on contemporary Hungarian women's movements and who is currently researching European/Eurasian movements against domestic violence, indicated that Roma women would experience more difficulties than non-Roma Hungarian women when trying to leave an abusive environment, as it is unlikely that a Roma woman would have the knowledge to call "sporadically available" NGO hotlines or to reach out and access family support centres offering shelter to women and children (22 June 2015).
The Human Rights Watch researcher explained that Roma women do not trust the police and do not turn to the police for assistance; furthermore, the police do not respond to calls for assistance, if they are approached (Human Rights Watch 8 June 2015). According to NANE et al., "discrimination and hostility" from law enforcement agencies and the courts against Roma are "likely to have a detrimental effect on Roma women" calling the police (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 4). The head of Colourful Pearls Association indicated that police often do not take cases of domestic violence in Roma families seriously and will only interfere "if blood flows" (15 June 2015).
NANE et al. observed that, while they were providing training to police officers on domestic violence, it was "not uncommon to meet stereotyping (even profiling) attitudes among police regarding Roma women and men in general," particularly regarding domestic violence, which is perceived as common and "normal" among Roma (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 2). NANE et al. explained that, due to their economic situation, Roma women "are less likely to be able to access legal […] redress, or […] initiate criminal proceedings against [the] perpetrator [of the abuse], as some procedures cost money," such as medical certificates and criminal procedures for "'lesser' crimes" of bodily harm where injuries have a "healing time under 8 days" (ibid., 3).
The Human Rights Watch researcher stated that it is "very, very difficult" and "rare" for Roma women to seek assistance outside their communities and, in particular, from state authorities, whom they do not trust (8 June 2015). Also, NANE et al. explained that Roma communities do not approve of victims complaining to "the 'outside'" lest they "contribute to the general hostile stereotypes about Roma" (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 2). According to NANE et al., Roma women face more difficulty when arranging escape from domestic violence because of lack of economic resources to pay for travel and housing; even access to a telephone is difficult, as they are less likely to own a cell phone or have a landline in their house (ibid., 3, 14). Furthermore, NANE et al. gave the view that general prejudice and public sentiment against Roma people moving into new places may be a barrier, such as difficulties Roma women encounter when placing their children in a new school (ibid., 14). Similarly, the head of Colourful Pearls Association indicated that lack of work opportunities and education, and the difficulty to provide for their children on their own present barriers to Roma women leaving their abuser (15 June 2015).
There are no support services available for Roma victims of domestic violence specifically (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 11; Colourful Pearls Association 15 June 2015); the same support services are "theoretically available" to Roma and to non-Roma domestic violence victims (ibid.). Two sources report of situations where Roma women have been less likely to be accepted into a shelter (Human Rights Watch 8 June 2015) or refused entry because they are Roma (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 4), which NANE et al. report occurs "with some regularity," a few times per year, in the course of NANE's assistance to victims (ibid.).
2. Implementation of Legislation
In 2013, Hungary amended the Criminal Code, introducing “violence within relationships” as a separate category of offence with harsher penalties for offences against family members (US 27 Feb. 2014, 37; Human Rights Watch 2014). However, Human Rights Watch notes that the amendment excludes non-cohabiting partners and "requires repeated abuse to trigger intervention" (ibid.). In March 2014, Hungary signed the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women (the Istanbul Convention), but has not yet ratified it (WAVE 2014; NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 11). For information on the situation of domestic violence up to June 2014, including the 2013 Criminal Code provisions, see Response to Information Request HUN104874.
The Human Rights Watch researcher indicated that, although the Criminal Code was changed in 2013 to include domestic violence offences, since 2013, the new law is "not functioning in practice" (Human Rights Watch 8 June 2015). According to information provided to Human Rights Watch by women's organizations in Hungary, "attitudes remain unchanged," authorities do not treat domestic violence as a serious crime, and the change in the law has not impacted the situation of domestic violence, or the response of the state, which is described as "inadequate" (ibid.). NANE et al. stated that the legislation on domestic violence "is not enforced in practice" (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 10). According to NANE et al., the new legislation requires "regularity for the abuse to be accepted as domestic violence," and, in their experience with other laws requiring "regularity" to be recognized as a criminal offense, such as harassment or stalking, it is not unusual for the police "to determine 'regularity' in a random, arbitrary, and completely perpetrator-friendly manner when it has any bearing on domestic violence" (ibid., 2). The head of the Colourful Pearls Association gave the view that the state's efforts to protect and assist domestic violence victims are not working effectively, and even less so for Roma women (15 June 2015).
3. State Protection
According to the Associate Professor, the police are "rarely called" in situations of domestic violence (22 June 2015). The Human Rights Watch researcher indicated that Hungarian police and judicial authorities perceive domestic violence to be a family issue (Human Rights Watch 8 June 2015). She explained that when police are approached for assistance from domestic violence victims, police blame the victim and, for example, will tell a woman who is beaten by her partner to return home and change her behaviour (ibid.). According to NANE et al., for both non-Roma and Roma Hungarian women, there is a "general lack of effective institutional response," and victims who call the NANE domestic violence helpline report a lack of response from the police (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 3).
According to NANE et al., "there is no meaningful specialized training or special units" to address cases of violence against women in Hungarian law enforcement agencies or the Prosecutor's Office (ibid., 11). The Associate Professor stated that there is no specific training to raise awareness of domestic violence crimes for police, judges, health professionals, or social workers who encounter domestic violence victims "or offer more situationally appropriate help to Roma or other disadvantaged groups" (22 June 2015). The Human Rights Watch researcher indicated that a new police training guideline on domestic violence has been in place since approximately 2013-2014; however, she said that victim-blaming attitudes among the police persist (8 June 2015).
The US Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014 indicates that in April 2014, the government sponsored a four-week long nationwide campaign "to broaden public understanding of the various forms of domestic violence and to urge victims to seek immediate assistance" (US 25 June 2015, 45). In November 2014, police released a video advertisement as part of a public campaign to prevent sexual violence; however, Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch responded that the ad reinforced "victim-blaming" attitudes (Human Rights Watch 8 June 2015; AI 4 Dec. 2014) toward women and girls (ibid.). AI reported that the video sparked a large public outcry in Hungary and criticism from women's rights groups (ibid.).
3.2 Restraining Orders
Police and courts can impose restraining orders in cases of domestic violence (US 27 Feb. 2014, 38; NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 6-7). Police can issue a restraining order valid for three days (ibid.; US 27 Feb. 2014, 38), in lieu of immediately filing charges (ibid.). The most recent available statistics on temporary restraining orders issued by police for three days are from 2010 and 2011: such orders were issued in 1,463 cases (2010) and 1,192 cases (2011) nationally, while in Budapest, 95 orders were issued (2010), of which 35 were upheld and extended by the courts of Budapest (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 6-7).
Country Reports 2013 indicates that in Hungary, courts can issue a 30-day restraining order in civil cases and a maximum of a 60-day order in criminal procedures (US 27 Feb. 2014, 38). However, Country Reports 2013 also reports that the law fails to provide effective protection for victims, according to women's rights NGOs (ibid.), while NANE et al. indicate that "protection orders are not used effectively," explaining that it is normal practice for police to find excuses not to issue a protection order, and that "[c]ourts decline the request for extending the protection order beyond […] three days of [the] police order in a surprisingly high number" (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 10). The Associate Professor stated that protection orders are "extremely rarely issued and hardly ever implemented" (22 June 2015). The UN CEDAW notes that restraining orders "are not provided on a long term basis and do not cover relationships between unmarried partners" (UN 1 Mar. 2013, para. 20).
According to NANE et al., disaggregated data on arrests, charges and prosecutions for domestic violence crimes are not publicly available (15 June 2015, 5). The UN CEDAW expressed concern over the lack of information about investigations, prosecutions and convictions in cases of violence against women (UN 1 Mar. 2013, para. 20). NANE et al. indicated to the Research Directorate that they had not been able to obtain statistical information from the police beyond 2013 regarding the number of "registered" cases; when a case is registered, it means that it "made its way to a police officer who was willing to [enter] it into the police database," but the data does not give information about the outcome of the case (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 5). According to NANE et al., in the first three months after the new Criminal Code came into effect, in July 2013, three cases of domestic violence were registered by police, involving four female victims (ibid., 10). Country Reports 2014 indicates that during the first six months of 2014, police recorded 3,570 cases of domestic violence, and prosecutors filed 18 charges for domestic violence (US 25 June 2015, 45). According to information obtained by NANE et al. from government authorities, the rate of domestic violence cases that authorities indicate have gone to court for prosecution between 2009-2011 is between 1.4 and 2.6 percent (ibid., 7).
Further and corroborating information on the effectiveness of state authorities in arresting, prosecuting and convicting domestic violence offences could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
3.4 Child Welfare Services
According to the Associate Professor, domestic violence is a "relatively new" term in the public discourse, and the term most often used is "'violence in the family'," which is equated with violence against children (22 June 2015). Sources indicate that women have reported being afraid to report domestic violence problems to social services and police because they have received threats from social services authorities that their children would be taken away as a result of reporting domestic violence (Human Rights Watch 8 June 2015; NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 3-4). According to NANE et al., both Roma and non-Roma women have been told that if they report domestic violence, they risk losing their children (ibid.). However, NANE et al. indicated that Roma women are "at higher risk" of being threatened in this way or having this used as "blackmail" by their abusers (ibid., 3).
4. Support Services
According to Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE), a "formal network of European women's NGOs working in the field of combating violence against women and children" (WAVE n.d.), there are two national hotlines in Hungary, one of which is free, but neither of which operate 24/7 (ibid. 2014). WAVE reports that both helplines combined received 830 calls in 2012 (ibid.). There is also a state-run hotline, called the National Crisis Intervention and Information Phone line line (Országos Kríziskezelõ és Információs Telefonszolgálat, OKIT), which provides information to women victims of violence (ibid.; Colourful Pearls Association 15 June 2015; NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 12). According to NANE et al., NANE's helpline is the "only NGO helpline for victims of gender-based violence in Hungary" (ibid., 13).
According to sources, there are no specialized shelters for women victims of domestic violence (WAVE 2014; Colourful Pearls Association 15 June 2015), but there are shelters for families in situations of distress that also assist abused women (ibid.). Sources indicate that the term domestic violence "crisis centre" is basically a name for a "mother's home" or "temporary family home" [see below] that operates with some designated beds or "places" for victims of domestic violence, with the places themselves being either in a separate apartment or in the home itself (NANE et al. 19 June 2015, 15; Human Rights Watch Nov. 2013, 44).
OKIT coordinates intake into the "crisis centres" (Colourful Pearls Association 15 June 2015; NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 11), which are usually organized by charity foundations, churches, or operated by local municipalities (ibid.). According to NANE et al., victims can directly approach the mother's homes/temporary family homes for assistance (ibid. 19 June 2015, 19), or can be referred by family protection services, the NANE helpline or OKIT in order to obtain a bed (ibid. 15 June 2015, 12). According to NANE et al., referrals by family protection services are evaluated by the shelters themselves (ibid.). NANE et al. indicated that the condition for a victim to obtain a place in a "crisis centre" is being in "imminent danger"; otherwise, women often have to wait to obtain a place (ibid.). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
NANE et al. explained that there are two types of homes that are operated under children protection laws and regulations: those that can accommodate women and children (mother's homes) and those that can accommodate whole families, including men (temporary family homes) (ibid. 19 June 2015, 15). In temporary family homes, each family has one room, with common bathrooms (separated by gender), and a shared kitchen for the house (ibid. 15 June 2015, 12). NANE et al. indicates that places designated for domestic violence victims are limited to a 60-day stay, while the general places for families allow a stay of up to one year, with the possibility of an additional six months "for most institutions" (ibid., 14). In contrast, the Human Rights Watch researcher indicated that women could stay in crisis centres for up to three months (8 June 2015). After the time period is over, women with children are eligible to obtain a place in one of the mother's homes, which are facilities for homeless women and their children (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 12; Human Rights Watch 8 June 2015), but are not specialized for domestic violence victims (ibid.). According to NANE et al., mother's homes and temporary family homes mostly house female domestic violence victims and their children, "but they often live together with families with men" (15 June 2015, 12).
According to the Human Rights Watch researcher, women without children are only eligible to stay at a crisis centre for three months, after which they must move to "a regular homeless shelter, which has deplorable living conditions, or return to her partner" (8 June 2015). NANE et al. similarly indicated that women without children cannot access mother's homes or temporary family homes when fleeing domestic violence, but can obtain a place in a "crisis centre," where they can stay for a maximum of 60 days, after which they must go to one of the few homeless shelters, rent an apartment, or return home (19 June 2015, 15).
The Human Rights Watch researcher also noted that elderly women "face particular difficulties" leaving abusive situations, due to financial dependence on their family (Human Rights Watch 8 June 2015). Corroborating information could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
Sources report that there are not enough "crisis centre" spaces for domestic violence victims, and women are turned away (ibid.; NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 12). As of June 2015, NANE et al. indicated that this occurs often, and "many victims cannot be placed" (ibid.). In other cases, the women are transferred to another centre in another part of the country, but those women must fund their own way (Human Rights Watch 8 June 2015). The Human Rights Watch researcher noted that "for many women, this is extremely difficult" because they are from rural areas, have never left their community, and lack resources, money and transportation to relocate to another shelter space (ibid.). NANE et al. noted that temporary family homes have their own rules for admission and refusal, and require payment of a "small fee," which may be "substantial for some people, especially victims of domestic violence" (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 14).
NANE et al. indicated that there are a total of 122 places (beds) for domestic violence victims in 16 locations nationally (ibid., 11). However, Country Reports 2014 states there are only 14 locations for victims of domestic violence in Hungary (US 25 June 2015, 45). NANE et al. provided the following region-specific information, based on 2010 data:
- In Budapest, there are two temporary family homes that have designated beds for domestic violence victims (8 places in each), for a combined total of 55 persons, including fathers, mothers and children (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 14).
- In Miskolc, there are four beds designated for women who are victims of domestic violence (40 places in total for fathers and mothers with children) (ibid., 13).
- In Debrecen, there are 7 mother's homes and temporary family homes, all of which service men, women, and children; the number of places for domestic violence victims was not available (ibid. 19 June 2015, 15).
Further and corroborating information on the regional availability of domestic violence spaces could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within the time constraints of this Response.
The government also reportedly operates several half-way houses for families to live in for up to five years (US 27 Feb. 2014, 38; NANE et al. 15 June 2015). However, NANE et al. reported that they had not encountered any victims who had been able to obtain a place in these homes, which reportedly have space for 16 families (ibid.).
NANE and PATENT Association run a joint project to provide legal aid services to victims of domestic violence (Colourful Pearls Association 15 June 2015; NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 13). NANE et al. specified that it is the only such NGO-run service in Hungary (ibid.). Country Reports 2013 indicates that women's rights groups report that services for domestic violence victims "operate with limited capacity" (US 27 Feb. 2014, 38).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
 NANE Women's Rights Association is a non-profit NGO established in 1994 to support victims of domestic violence (NANE et al. 15 June 2015, 1). Hungarian Women's Lobby is "an umbrella organisation of human rights-based women's NGOs and the national coordinating organization of the European Women's Lobby"; it is involved in research, advocacy, and awareness raising on gender equality issues (EU n.d.). Patent Association of People Challenging Patriarchy (PATENT) is an interdisciplinary group of professionals from the field of violence against women, with a mission “to promote the rights of victims of violence against women and LGBT people through direct services and advocacy” (Global Fund for Women n.d.).
Amnesty International (AI). 4 December 2014. "Public Statement: Hungary Must Withdraw a Video Blaming Sexual Violence Against Women on Their Behaviour." <https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/.../eur270052014en.pdf> [Accessed 8 June 2015]
Associate Professor, Lafayette College, Pennsylvania. 22 June 2015. Correspondence with the Research Directorate.
Colourful Pearls Association for Roma Women in Southern Hungary. 15 June 2015. Correspondence sent to the Research Directorate by a policy officer of the Hungarian Women's Lobby who gathered information from the head of the Colourful Pearls Association.
European Union (EU). 2013. European Parliament. Directorate-General for Internal Policies. Country Report on Hungary - Empowerment of Romani Women Within the European Framework of National Roma Inclusion Strategies. <http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/etudes/join/2013/493021/IPOL-FEMM_ET%282013%29493021_EN.pdf> [Accessed 10 June 2015]
_____. N.d. "Hungarian Women's Lobby." <http://eige.europa.eu/content/hungarian-womens-lobby> [Accessed 17 June 2015]
Global Fund for Women. N.d. "Patent Association of People Challenging Patriarchy." <https://grants.globalfundforwomen.org/GFWSearch/index.php?id=31256> [Accessed 17 June 2015]
Human Rights Watch. 8 June 2015. Telephone interview with a researcher on Eastern Europe.
_____. 2014. "European Union." World Report 2014: Events of 2013. <http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2014/country-chapters/croatia-france-germany-greece-hungary-italy-netherlands-poland> [Accessed 8 June 2015]
_____. November 2013. Unless Blood Flows: Lack of Protection from Domestic Violence in Hungary. <http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/hungary1113_ForUpload.pdf> [Accessed 15 May 2015]
IMECE Turkish Speaking Women’s Group, London Training and Employment Network (LTEN), and Regional Social Welfare Resource Centre (BSZF). November 2010. Empowering Women or Perpetuating Victimhood: Minority Ethnic and Roma Women’s Experiences of Domestic Violence Policy and Service Provision. <http://www.lten.org.uk/documents/reports/publications/Final%20report%20Nov.pdf> [Accessed 8 June 2014]
NANE Women's Rights Association, Hungarian Women's Lobby (HWL), PATENT Association. 19 June 2015. Correspondence to the Research Directorate from a policy officer at NANE Women's Rights Association, on behalf of the three women's rights NGOs.
_____. 15 June 2015. Correspondence to the Research Directorate from a policy officer at NANE Women's Rights Association, on behalf of the three women's rights NGOs.
United Nations (UN). 1 March 2013. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Concluding Observations on the Combined Seventh and Eighth Periodic Reports of Hungary Adopted by the Committee at its Fifty-Fourth Session (11 February - 1 March 2013). (CEDAW/C/HUN/CO/7-8) <www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cedaw/.../CEDAW.C.HUN.CO.7-8.doc> [Accessed 8 June 2015]
United States (US). 25 June 2015. Department of State. "Hungary." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2014. <http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/236744.pdf> [Accessed 2 July 2015]
_____. 27 February 2014. Department of State. "Hungary." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013. <http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/220497.pdf> [Accessed 8 June 2015]
Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE). 2014. "Hungary." WAVE Report 2014. <http://www.wave-network.org/sites/default/files/HUNGARY%202014.pdf> [Accessed 8 June 2015]
_____. N.d. "Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE)." <http://www.wave-network.org/content/woman-against-violence-europe-wave> [Accessed 17 June 2015]
Additional Sources Consulted
Oral sources: The following were unable to provide information for this Response: European Roma Rights Centre; Hungarian Helsinki Committee; Hungary – Equal Treatment Authority, Ministry of Human Capacities, Office for Women’s Policies in the Ministry of Family and Social Affairs.
The following were unable to provide information within the time constraints of this Response: independent researcher on Hungarian Roma; Hungary – Embassy in Ottawa, Office of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights; professor of law, Lafayette University.
Attempts to contact the following were unsuccessful within the time constraints of this Response: Hungarian Civil Liberties Union; KERET Coalition; MONA Foundation for Women of Hungary; Romedia Foundation.
Internet sites, including: BBC; ecoi.net; European Roma Rights Centre; European Union – European Institute for Gender Equality, Fundamental Rights Agency; European Women's Lobby; Factiva; Hungarian Helsinki Committee; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; UN – Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Refworld.