Protection available to women who are victims of spousal or sexual abuse [ETH32241.E]

According to Country Reports 1998, women who are victims of spousal or sexual abuse "have recourse to the police and the courts" (1999, 157). In practice, however, "societal norms and limited infrastructure inhibit many women from seeking legal redress, especially in remote areas. Social practices obstruct investigations into rape and the prosecution of a rapist, and many women are not aware of their rights under the law" (ibid.).

According to a Johannesburg Mail and Guardian report of 18 June 1999, abductions of young girls for purposes of forced marriage are illegal but they have "become so common that the police turn a blind eye." A young woman who killed her abductor and rapist in self-defence was reportedly arrested and charged with murder (ibid.). Although with the help of the Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA), she was later acquitted, her village elders decreed that she remain in exile but no concrete effort was made, at the government level, to stop the practice of abducting young girls (ibid.).

The EWLA states that the existing body of law does not make adequate provisions for lawsuits pertaining to domestic rape, assault and battery (Addis Tribune 12 Mar. 1999).

A study conducted by the EWLA in 1998 reported that family conflicts were handled by family arbitration councils but the arbitrators had "virtually" no knowledge of the law, demanded payment from divorcing couples, and "the final decisions are often biased depending on who makes the payment, obviously the man" (The Monitor 18 Aug. 1998). Furthermore, arbitrators often contradicted each other's decisions, and divorce cases had to be referred to appeal courts where they took between 8 to 15 years to settle. The study concluded that the institution of family arbitration had practically failed to attain the very basic objectives for which it was formed. It recommended that family arbitration councils be replaced with regular judicial institutions (ibid.).

The EWLA drafted a proposal on the draft Family Law and submitted it to the "concerned government bodies" (The Monitor 2 Mar. 1999). Although the draft law was discussed among different groups, the EWLA later complained that it did not represent women's interests because "the process lacked the participation of those groups who stand for the interest of women. Organizations or groups (like EWLA), who specialize in the area of family law and can address issues that are critical to women were not allowed to participate in the process of drafting the Family Law" (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Addis Tribune [Addis Ababa]. "Ethiopia: Forum on "Violence Against Women, Women and Peace, Women and Development." (Africa News/NEXIS)

Mail and Guardian [Johannesburg]. 18 June 1999. "Ethiopia: Where Rape is A Proposal of Marriage." (Africa News/NEXIS)

The Monitor [Addis Ababa]. 2 March 1999. Seble Bekele. "Ethiopia: Draft Family Law in the Eyes of Women Lawyers." (Africa News/NEXIS)

_____. 18 August 1998. "Seble Bekele. "Ethiopia: Of Family Arbitration Councils and The Rights of Women." (African News/NEXIS)