EWL News

Hungary: Women’s organisations comment on a high-profile rape case verdict

[KERET Coalition, Budapest, 27 March 2012] KERET Coalition (“Coalition against Sexual Violence, for Survivors”) welcomes the final ruling of the Budapest Metropolitan Court of 20 March 2012, which finds Hungarian actor Roland Damu guilty of rape, attempted bodily harm and two instances of violation of personal freedom.

As with all court cases which involve intimate partner violence and which receive a lot of public attention, this case will have a significant effect on attitudes towards domestic violence in the Hungarian society. The ruling gives the message that violence against women is a crime, the due punishment of which is a several year prison sentence.

As organisations that deal with cases of intimate partner violence, the members of the KERET Coalition find it important to point out that the court legally acknowledged the credibility of circumstantial evidence, even if the crime was committed behind closed doors. It deserves recognition that the court, in accordance with international human rights standards, paid particular attention to the human dignity of the victim and rejected suggestions for providing evidence that would have led to her further traumatisation. The Coalition hopes that the court’s decision will deter future defendants accused of committing sexual violence from trying to prove their innocence using staged pornographic movies in their defence.

However, the Coalition finds it rather inexplicable that the court did not acknowledge as an aggrevating circumstance the documented evidence of the fact that Damu had committed violence against women before, and that it deemed a mitigating circumstance that before the rape a consensual sexual act had taken place between the parties. This latter explanation is all the more surprising because the court recognised at the same time that the sexually violent crime was “an act with a kind of disciplining goal, serving to solidify the hierarchical relationship between the two of them”; i.e. it was not an act of a sexual kind but an instrument used to express power and exercise control.

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence – which is not yet legally binding for Hungary but already provides guidance – also specifies that such crimes should be punished with the use of effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions. Taking this into consideration as well, the Coalition expresses its regret that the Budapest Metropolitan Court, by significantly reducing the original sentence that was handed down, sends the message that as court of appeal it considers the acts the accused committed only slightly dangerous to society. The series of acts that included a number of grave forms of psychological, verbal, physical and sexual violence has caused lifelong impacts to the victim in this case.

Domestic and intimate partner violence is the number one cause of death for women between ages 15 and 44, and at least every fifth woman is at risk of it. IThe coalition believes that it is the primary role of the justice system to recognise the fact that this phenomenon poses a serious threat to society. What depends on this is not merely protecting the legitimately called-for safety of women, but preservation of the lives and the mental and physical health of future generations as well.

KERET Coalition provides help for victims of sexual violence. It was formed in 2010 by the Hungarian human rights organisations Amnesty International Hungary, MONA Foundation for the Women of Hungary, NANE Women’s Rights Association, Hungarian Women’s Lobby and PATENT Association.

Web: www.keretkoalicio.blogspot.com

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