Summary:Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence-Part 01
1. Violence against women, including domestic violence, is one of the most serious forms of gender-based violations of human rights in Europe that is still shrouded in silence. Domestic violence – against other victims such as children, men and the elderly – is also a hidden phenomenon which affects too many families to be ignored.
2. Prevalence rates for Europe do not exist, but many member states have increasingly conducted surveys to measure the extent of violence against women nationally. Although methodologies vary, an overview of these surveys suggests that across countries, one-fifth to one-quarter of all women have experienced physical violence at least once during their adult lives and more than one-tenth have suffered sexual violence involving the use of force. Figures for all forms of violence, including stalking, are as high as 45%. The majority of such violent acts are carried out by men in their immediate social environment, most often by partners and ex-partners.
3. Secondary data analysis support a conservative estimate that about 12% to 15% of all women have been in a relationship of domestic abuse after the age of 16. Many more continue to suffer physical and sexual violence from former partners even after the break-up, indicating that, for a large number of women, ending an abusive relationship does not necessarily mean physical safety.
4. Domestic violence against children is widespread and studies have revealed the link between domestic violence against women and child physical abuse, as well as the trauma that witnessing violence in the home causes in children. For other forms of domestic violence, such as elderly abuse and domestic violence against men, reliable data is relatively scarce.
5. Violence against women is a worldwide phenomenon. The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) of the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (hereafter CEDAW) in its general recommendation on violence against women No. 19 (1992) helped to ensure the recognition of gender-based violence against women as a form of discrimination against women. The United Nations General Assembly, in 1993, adopted a Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women that laid the foundation for international action on violence against women. In 1995, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action identified the eradication of violence against women as a strategic objective among other gender equality requirements. In 2006, the UN Secretary-General published his In-depth study on all forms of violence against women, in which he identified the manifestations and international legal frameworks relating to violence against women, and also compiled details of "promising practices" which have shown some success in addressing this issue.
6. As a regional instrument open for ratification and accession to non-member states, the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence complements and expands the standards set by other regional human rights organisations in this field. The Inter-American Convention on the prevention, punishment and eradication of violence against women, adopted in 1994 by the Organisation of American States, and the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa, adopted in 2003 by the African Union, both address the issue of violence against women. More comprehensive in nature, the Council of Europe Convention significantly reinforces action to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence at world level.
Action of the Council of Europe
7. One of the primary concerns of the Council of Europe, representing 47 member states and their 800 million citizens, is to safeguard and protect human rights. Violence against women, including domestic violence, undermines the core values on which the Council of Europe is based.
8. Since the 1990ies, the Council of Europe, in particular its Steering Committee for Equality between Women and Men (CDEG), has undertaken a series of initiatives to promote the protection of women against violence. In 1993, the 3rd European Ministerial Conference on Equality between Women and Men was devoted to Strategies for the elimination of violence against women in society: the media and other means.
9. An Action Plan to Combat Violence against Women which had subsequently been developed provided the first comprehensive policy framework for national administrations. This was followed up in 2002 by the adoption of Council of Europe Recommendation Rec(2002)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the protection of women against violence. It represents a milestone in that it proposes, for the first time in Europe, a comprehensive strategy for the prevention of violence against women and the protection of victims in all Council of Europe member states. Since 2002, it has served as the most important reference text for member states in combating violence against women. Its implementation is regularly monitored by means of a monitoring framework to evaluate progress. Several monitoring cycles were completed and their outcome assessed and published. They showed that, in particular in the areas of legislation, police investigation and prosecution much had been done to enhance the criminal law response to violence against women. Nonetheless, many gaps remain. In other areas, notably the provision of services for victims, signs of progress are scarce.
10. To give new impetus to the eradication of violence against women, and to reaffirm their commitment to this aim, the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe member states decided at their Third Summit (Warsaw, 16-17 May 2005) to carry out a large-scale campaign on the issue, devised and closely monitored by the Council of Europe Task Force to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence, whose members were appointed by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
11. The Campaign was conducted at three levels: intergovernmental, parliamentary and local. Member states were asked to make significant progress in four main areas: legal and policy measures, support and protection for victims, data collection and awareness-raising. They were also invited to carry out national campaigns to lobby for stronger implementation of Recommendation Rec(2002)5 on the protection of women against violence, which more than half the member states did.
12. Thanks to the unique role of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, comprising delegations from all 47 national parliaments, there was a strong parliamentary dimension to the Campaign. Many parliamentarians have, individually and jointly, pushed for changes in legislation to protect women from gender-based violence. By organising parliamentary debates and hearings on violence against women, but also in interviews and public statements, parliamentarians have greatly contributed to raising awareness of this topic. Parliamentarians in many member states continue to actively lobby for change and have created a “Network of Contact Parliamentarians” who are committed to combating violence against women at national level.
13. The campaign revealed the magnitude of the problem in Europe, but it also brought to light examples of good practice and initiatives in many different member states. It increased awareness among key actors and helped place the various forms of violence against women on the political agenda.
14. Furthermore, the assessment of national measures to address violence against women carried out by the Task Force showed the need for harmonised legal standards and the collection of relevant data to ensure that victims across Europe benefit from the same level of protection and support. The Task Force therefore recommended in its Final Activity Report (EG-TFV (2008) 6), that the Council of Europe develop a human rights convention to prevent and combat violence against women.
15. Moreover, the European Ministers of Justice decided during their 27th Conference (Yerevan, Armenia, 12-13 October 2006), to assess the need for a Council of Europe legal instrument on violence against the partner, while being aware that such violence can be based on discriminating prejudices in terms of inequalities resulting from gender, origins and economic dependency. Following the results of the “Feasibility study for a convention on against domestic violence” (CDPC (2007)09 rev), it was concluded by the European Committee for Crime Problems (CDPC) that such an instrument would be necessary.
16. The Parliamentary Assembly has long taken a firm political stance against all forms of violence against women. It has adopted a number of resolutions and recommendations on the various forms of violence against women; in particular, Resolution 1247 (2001) on female genital mutilation, Resolution 1582 (2002) on domestic violence, Resolution 1327 (2003) on so-called “honour crimes”, Recommendation 1723 (2005) on forced marriages and child marriages, Recommendation 1777 (2007) on sexual assaults linked to “date-rape drugs” and, more recently, Resolution 1654 (2009) on Feminicides and Resolution 1691 (2009) on rape of women, including marital rape.
17. The Parliamentary Assembly has repeatedly called for legally-binding standards on preventing, protecting against and prosecuting the most severe and widespread forms of gender-based violence and has expressed its support to the drafting of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.