The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) defines sexual and gender-based violence as “the type of violence directed against a person for reasons having to do with a person’s gender or sex” (UNHCR, 2003, p. 10). This includes domestic violence, rape, sexual abuse and sexual harassment, bullying at school and in the workplace, human trafficking and forced prostitution. Women, men, boys and girls can be equally affected; statistically and in terms of the variety of forms of violence to which they are subjected, women and girls are the group most affected by sexual or gender-based violence.
In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the “Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women”, which defined the concept of “violence against women”.
According to the United Nations Declaration, “violence against women” means “any form of gender-based violence that results in actual or potential mental, sexual or psychological harm, including threats, coercion or arbitrary restrictions of freedom, whether occurring in public or in private”.
The statement highlights groups of women who are more vulnerable to violence, namely minority women, refugee or migrant women, women living in rural or remote communities, poor women, women in institutions or in detention, women with disabilities, older women or women in situations of armed conflict.
Under the Istanbul Convention, states are called upon to take action to prevent violence against women by eradicating prejudices, customs, traditions and other practices which are based on the idea of women’s inferiority or on stereotyped roles for women and men respectively:
· Raise awareness of violence against women.
· Education on gender equality, non-stereotyped gender roles, mutual respect, non-violent conflict resolution in interpersonal relationships, gender-based violence against women and the right to personal integrity, adapted to the evolving capacity of students, in the formal curriculum and at all levels of education.
· Training of professionals dealing with victims or perpetrators of all acts of violence against women.
· Preventive intervention and treatment programs aimed at teaching perpetrators of domestic violence to adopt non-violent behavior in interpersonal relationships in order to prevent further violence and change violent behavior patterns.
· Involvement of the private sector and the media in the development and implementation of policies and in the setting of guidelines and self-regulatory standards to prevent violence against women and increase respect for their dignity.
In Romania, the prevention of gender-based violence is mainly the responsibility of the following institutions: the General Inspectorate for Immigration, the General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police, the general directorates for social assistance and child protection, the public social assistance services, the probation services, the National Agency against Trafficking in Human Beings, the Ministry of Labor and Social Justice, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of National Education and the Ministry of Health at central level also have direct responsibilities for the prevention of gender-based violence.
The General Inspectorate for Immigration is obliged to implement information activities aimed at preventing gender-based violence. According to the Regulation on the internal order of the regional centers for procedures and accommodation of asylum seekers of 25.08.2016 published in the Official Gazette of Romania on 02.09.2016, article 60, the employees of the centers inform the persons accommodated in the centers about what sexual or gender-based violence is, as well as about the consequences of occurrence of such acts. The regulation also makes it compulsory to inform asylum seekers accommodated in the Regional Centers for Procedures and Accommodation (CRCPSA) of the prohibition to commit acts of violence against other foreigners accommodated there, as well as against any other persons.
Another institution is the General Directorate for Social Assistance and Child Protection (DGASPC) which has the following responsibilities in the field of preventing and combating domestic violence, according to “Decision No. 797/2017 of 8 November 2017 approving the framework regulations for the organization and functioning of public social assistance services and the indicative staff structure”:
· provides the necessary measures for the implementation of activities to prevent and combat domestic violence and for the provision of services for victims of domestic violence and domestic abusers;
· monitors the measures necessary for the implementation of activities to prevent and combat domestic violence and for the provision of services for victims of domestic violence and domestic abusers;
· develops partnerships and collaborates with non-governmental organizations and other representatives of civil society in order to provide and diversify services to prevent and combat domestic violence;
· to provide a basis for and propose to the county council and the local council of the Bucharest municipal district respectively the establishment, financing and co-financing of public institutions providing services aimed at preventing and combating domestic violence;
· support and develop an information and counselling system accessible to victims of domestic violence in order to exercise all the rights provided for by the laws in force;
· monitors cases of domestic violence in the administrative-territorial unit in which it operates;
· identifies situations of risk for the parties involved in domestic violence situations and refers the parties to specialized services/mediation;
· it compiles at county level, respectively at the level of the districts of Bucharest, the database on cases of domestic violence and reports these data quarterly to the National Agency for Equal Opportunities between Women and Men.
For some types of gender-based violence the roles in terms of identification, assistance and protection are very clearly defined. In others, however, identification depends on the level of preparedness and proactivity of institutions and professionals who understand the impact of gender-based violence on individuals and respect for their rights.
According to Romanian legislation, the identification of migrant victims of violence in regional accommodation centers and procedures for asylum seekers is mainly the responsibility of the General Inspectorate for Immigration, the General Inspectorate of the Romanian Police, the National Agency against Trafficking in Human Beings, the National Agency for Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, and health institutions, general directorates for social assistance and child protection, local public authorities through public social assistance services and community medical assistants, schools, social assistants from other public and private structures, regional integration centers, any natural or legal person working/interacting with children or employees of public or private institutions, adult or minor victims themselves.