Breakthrough in Victims' Rights
Spreads to the Ukraine
Czech Republic, December 12 - In early January 2002, Ashoka Fellow Petra Vitousova will bring into the Ukraine the same democratizing revolution in the law that she pioneered in the Czech Republic. (Her work is one example of how Ashoka's Central European Fellows are helping the former Soviet Union evolve-even though Ashoka has not yet been able to afford bringing its services there directly.)
Petra succeeded earlier this year in rewriting Czech law and prosecutorial and court practice to give victims full information and access and a voice, from the beginning to end of all proceedings. This is certainly one of the most profound changes the country's legal system has ever experienced. It turns people who have been hurt into players who participate, right alongside officials whose focus is protecting the law. As a result, the need for restitution and rehabilitation becomes harder to ignore. The whole process becomes much more open and transparent.
One element of Petra's success in making the law more sympathetic to victims has been to secure a wider legal definition of rape. Undertaking an even more difficult task, she has also begun getting the responsible actors to change their behavior.
Reporting on Petra's legislative reforms, Ashoka Country Representative Jana Hradilkova said, "The Czech Rape Law amendment is of twofold significance. Not only is the government considering opinions of non-state actors while creating laws, but public attitude toward victims of crime is also changing."
The methods and expertise of her organization, White Circle of Safety, have already sparked a similar movement in Slovakia, and offer systemic solutions for victims in countries throughout Eastern Europe and beyond.