Cablegate: Poland - Taking Action On Violence Against Women

DE RUEHWR #2387/01 3520933
P 180933Z DEC 07





E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 142614

1. (U) In an effort to recognize the recent 16 Days of
Activism against Gender Violence Campaign and the
International Day for Elimination of Violence against Women,
Post held a Digital Video Conference (DVC) with U.S. and
Polish experts to assess major challenges related to the
eradication of domestic violence and to discuss potential
solutions. Through meetings with Ministries, NGOs and other
agencies engaged in preventing and eliminating such violence,
Embassy Warsaw has learned about the prevalence of the
problem and the efforts underway to address the issue.

Situation Report and Background
2. (SBU) Domestic violence in Poland is addressed by the July
2005 Act on Domestic Violence; however, most agree that the
act is not sufficiently implemented. No governmental body is
directly responsible for coordinating tasks related to the
elimination of violence against women and there are no joint
action plans among various government agencies, law
enforcement, and NGOs. Although government initiatives exist
to combat domestic violence and violence against women, they
fall under more general programs for women or programs to
eliminate violence and crime. The Ministry of Labor and
Social Policy,s (MOL) Department for Women, Family and
Combating Discrimination coordinates efforts with the Council
of Europe to combat violence against women, although the
issue is not defined as one of the Department's priorities.
Ministry of Interior (MOI) statistics on violence are not
gender segregated, which makes it difficult to assess the
prevalence of the problem.

3. (U) The number of reported victims of domestic violence in
Poland has risen considerably in the last decade. In 1999,
there were 96,955 reported victims compared to 156,788 in
2005. The number of police interventions has almost doubled
during that same time period from 376,538 interventions to
608,751. The MOL argues that the increase is attributable to
well-publicized national campaigns to support victims of
violence and demonstrates a greater social awareness of the
problem. Thanks to recent media campaigns, educational
activities, and institutions and organizations providing
assistance to victims of violence, society increasingly
realizes that domestic violence is not merely a private issue
and should be reported to public law enforcement bodies.
Campaigns have also worked to raise awareness of the services
that exist for victims and to spread the efficiency of the
"Blue Card" system, a police initiative to standardize
procedures in cases of domestic violence. Nevertheless, NGOs
and Ministries recognize that raising awareness continues to
be a significant challenge. Studies show that many women
feel they do not receive enough support. The number of
unreported cases remains elevated; a recent study conducted
by the Warsaw University on gender violence concludeded that
one third of Polish women experience violence in their
lifetime and more than 800,000 Polish women are victimized
annually. There is a great discrepancy between the numbers
of women who anonymously admit to having been victims of
abuse in surveys and those who report cases of violence to
the police.

4. (SBU) Assistance programs for victims of violence are
limited. The MOJ is currently running a pilot project with
11 institutions that provide comprehensive services to
victims of crimes. If successful, the project will be
introduced nationwide; however, these centers are not
specialized for victims of domestic violence. There is no
state obligation to run specialized shelters; those that
exist are run by NGOs and churches. In 2004, there were
approximately 148 shelters for victims of domestic violence,
which typically offer free legal and psychological
counseling. Although resources are available, surveys show
that only 14% of victims of partner violence turned to an
organization for help. Some believe this is because
organizations have insufficient resources, and many require
waiting lists to obtain assistance.

5. (U) Based on the input of local contacts who work to
combat violence against women, Embassy Warsaw coordinated a
DVC on December 13, 2007 entitled: "Combating Violence
against Women: Continuing Challenges." Post worked with
Washington to engage relevant speakers in discussing best

WARSAW 00002387 002 OF 002

practices for advancing the battle against gender violence
with the Polish audience. U.S. speakers included Andrea
Bottner, Senior Coordinator for International Women's Issues,
Department of State; Mary Beth Buchanan, Acting Director of
the Office of Violence Against Women, Department of Justice;
and Karen Cunningham, Director of Legal Services at the NGO
Women Empowered Against Violence (WEAVE). Polish
participants represented the diverse groups involved in the
combat against domestic violence, including representatives
from the MOL, MOJ, the police, NGOs, and academics. The
discussion focused on what kind of services should be offered
to victims, raising awareness, sources of funding, and the
challenges of implementing laws. It also provided a venue
for interaction between local NGOs and Ministries.
Participants praised the timeliness and utility of the
program and expressed interest in further Polish-American
cooperation on the issue.

6. (U) A representative from the MOJ invited Ms. Bottner to
open a MOJ-hosted Conference on Emotional Violence, to be
held in northern Poland on February 22, 2008. The Conference
will open a week-long awareness raising campaign for
victims, support, held annually since 1995. In addition,
many Polish specialists were interested in the possibility of
an International Visitor Program to the U.S.

Embassy Involvement in the 16-day Campaign
7. (U) Prior to the DVC, PolOff and Pol Intern participated
in meetings with the various actors relevant to the issue in
Poland. As part of the 16 Days of Activism, PolOffs visited
a Crisis Intervention Center in Bialystok to observe
first-hand the assistance available to victims of violence,
attended conferences on the issue, met with the MOL to assess
government efforts, and visited various NGOs including Blue
Line, the Women's Rights Center, and La Strada. These visits
proved essential in deepening the Embassy's understanding of
the specific challenges in Poland, but also in creating
contacts to further Polish-American cooperation on the issue.

8. (SBU) Through meetings with various actors, PolOffs were
able to assess the situation of violence against women in
Poland and identify major challenges ahead. Despite the
legal framework in place, Poland is having trouble
implementing sufficient protections for victims. Government
organizations lack coordination on the issue and must further
develop programs specifically aimed at fighting violence
against women. Insufficient services and a very low
conviction rate fail to give women the courage to report
incidents of violence. Societal awareness of the problem has
risen, but should be further encouraged. The DVC organized
by Post between U.S. and Polish specialists proved successful
in initiating Polish-American cooperation on the issue.


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