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Nov 18, 2021

Clare's Law - Right to Ask, Right to Know

As we head toward our Maid: Fact or Fiction event to be held on  November 24th just ahead of November 25th’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2021, this seems like a good time to think about another issue facing women experiencing domestic violence.

Clare’s Law

Clare’s Law, also known officially in some places as a Domestic Violence Disclosure Scheme, was passed in some provinces as a way for partners to discover if they are at risk of potential  of domestic abuse and to learn more about their intimate partner’s past. 

Clare's Law has two main elements; the first is a 'right to ask'. This element permits members of the public, including a domestic partner, to request information from the police about a potential abuser. The second element is a 'right to know', which, in some circumstances, allows police to disclose such information to the public on their own accord.

Why is it Called Clare's Law? 

Clare’s Law is named for Clare Wood, who was murdered at age 36 by her ex-boyfriend in England in 2009. The police knew of his violent past, but they could not disclose it, nor did they really understand domestic abuse and how to effectively deal with it as a police force. This failure by the police to take action is common in many places. In an attempt to prevent harm and even death to other people, Clare’s father pushed for a law to be enacted whereby the police could warn potential targets of their partner’s past. The law came into effect in the UK in 2014.

Which Countries Have a Similar Law?

Various Commonwealth countries have versions of this law. In Canada, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador have enacted the law. Other provinces are working on it. Pushing for every province and territory to have such a law is critical. 

Does the Law Work?

It is difficult to know whether a law such as this actually prevents violence, but it is always good to have more tools in the toolbox. Not all requests for disclosures are fulfilled because the criteria set out by the law haven’t been met. Raising awareness about the law is important so that more people take advantage of it.

Sad Reality

As with many things, there are both positive and negative aspects to this law. Some women are afraid of being blamed if they know about their partner’s past and choose not to leave. Others don’t want to know about their partner’s past or know it already but feel that they won’t become victims themselves for various reasons, only to be proved wrong. 

Read more about Clare’s Law in Canada here.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are the writer’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Na’amat Canada.