The situation of people with disabilities has improved considerably over the past decade, through action at international level and in our member States. Much has been achieved to ensure that people with disabilities have access to their fundamental rights and fully participate in society. The Council of Europe Action Plan for 2006-2015 has been vital in advancing integrated solutions and a coherent concept of disability policies.
Unfortunately, these improvements do not benefit all people with disabilities in an equal manner. Women and girls with disabilities often continue to face multiple discriminations, based not only on their disability but also on their gender.
Women with disabilities often face isolation and have few opportunities to seek help against abuse. It is a hidden phenomenon and grossly underreported, but we know that is a widespread and severe.
We must ensure that women with disabilities are treated with full respect for their human rights and are empowered to thrive in societies on the basis of full equality.
The Council of Europe has several tools to combat violence against women with disabilities. Three of them stand out as particularly relevant:
the Istanbul Convention,
the Council of Europe Action Plan to promote the rights and full participation of people with disabilities in society for 2006-2015,
the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers on the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls with disabilities.
The Istanbul Convention is a blueprint for laws and policies to end violence against women and domestic violence. All of its measures must be applied without discrimination on any grounds, including disability.
Specifically regarding violence against women with disabilities, the convention requires governments to address the specific needs of vulnerable persons and to provide specialised assistance.
Furthermore, governments must co-ordinate policies and legislation and involve the various national agencies and actors concerned: the judiciary, the police, service providers, non-governmental organisations, national, regional and local parliaments and authorities.
Finally, the Convention requires the collection of statistical data disaggregated by sex on all forms of violence and research in order to obtain a comprehensive picture on violence against women to serve as a basis for government policies.
One of the main strengths of the Istanbul Convention is its monitoring mechanism. Following its entry into force, the Group of Experts on Action against violence against women and domestic violence (GREVIO) will now be set up to monitor the implementation of laws and policies to meet the Convention obligations.
The second Council of Europe tool to combat violence against women with disability is the Council of Europe Action Plan to promote the rights and full participation of people with disabilities in society for 2006-2015.
People with disabilities must be guaranteed full enjoyment of their human rights without discrimination. The Action Plan underlines the primary responsibility of governments for implementing disability policies and for translating them into specific actions in accordance with 15 Action Lines.
These Action Lines cover all aspects of life: political, public and cultural, information and communication, education, employment and training, buildings and infrastructure, community living, health care, social protection and protection against violence and abuse.
The Action Plan highlights the specific needs of women and girls with disabilities as a cross-cutting aspect which must be taken into account for the design and implementation of all measures.
The third and final Council of Europe tool that I would like to mention is the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers on the protection and promotion of the rights of women and girls with disabilities from 2012.
This Recommendation calls on member States to put in place specific measures to improve the access of women with disabilities to justice and protection from violence and abuse.
Such measures may include training for the providers of support and assistance, enabling them to deal adequately with these needs, as well as steps to ensure the accessibility of support services to women and girls with disabilities.
This month we have launched a new and invaluable asset for preventing and combating violence against women with disabilities – the European Committee on Social Cohesion, Human Dignity and Equality (CDDECS). I am confident that this new intergovernmental committee will help set the political agenda of the Council of Europe and our member States.
Together with the Parliamentary Network Women Free from Violence and your Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, we should be in a position to shape the normative framework and to remind governments of their obligations.
I look forward to the exchange of views with the expert speakers and I am sure that this event, the examples and good practices will contribute towards our ultimate goal: the protection of all women and girls from violence, particularly those who are vulnerable.
Thank you for your attention.