This study was produced by Linklaters LLP for PRI and examines how women who have killed their abusers following prolonged domestic abuse are treated in law and before the courts, covering nine jurisdictions: Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Mexico, Poland, Spain and the USA.
The number of women globally who have committed violent crimes is very small. Women are far more likely to be victims than perpetrators. However, when women have been convicted of murder or manslaughter, in a significant number of cases the victim is a male partner or male family member and there is a history of domestic violence.
The findings of this survey shows that with few exceptions, criminal justice systems are failing these women by ignoring their trauma and realities/dynamics of domestic violence.
- In almost all jurisdictions covered, there is no separate basis in law for a history of abuse to be considered and generally, women have to rely on existing legal defences (eg. self-defence, provocation, or temporary insanity). These typical defences tend to be ill-adapted to women who have experienced prolonged abuse.
- Courts are not equipped with the right guidance, or show a reluctance, to take victimisation consistently into account as a factor either in establishing culpability or in sentencing.
- Some promising practices have developed in a few jurisdictions researched (eg. a number of Australian and US states), establishing defences or partial defences for abuse cases, or enabling greater weight to the mitigating circumstance of domestic violence to be given when establishing culpability or in sentencing.
This study is one output from a research project brokered by Advocates for International Development (A4ID).
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