Doctors can report domestic violence to the police

From now on, GP's, doctors or social workers have the opportunity to report cases of domestic violence to the judicial authorities. They are no longer bound by their duty of professional confidentiality as legislation has been changed. However, this does not mean that they have the obligation to do this.

When a victim of domestic violence was going to the doctor's to have his or her injuries treated or to talk about the problem, doctors could not report this to the police as they had to respect the principle of professional confidentiality.

From now on, doctors, psychologists or even social workers have the opportunity to report the case to the judicial authorities, even if this is against the patient's will. A bill has been passed which allows them to do so under certain circumstances.

The Institute for Equal Rights for Men and Women is delighted with the change, says director Michel Pasteel. "It's a new instrument to protect victims of domestic violence, and an important signal that the battle against domestic violence is being extended."

In Belgium, 1 in 7 women are the victim of domestic violence. However, only a small minority of the victims has the courage or the will to actually file a complaint about this.