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Regional Seminar
“Legal Measures to Combat Violence against Women,
including Domestic Violence”
The Hague, 21-22 February 2007

Speech by Dubravka Šimonovič
Chairperson, Council of Europe Task Force to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence

Opening session

Ladies and gentlemen,

We have gathered here for the first regional seminar within the framework of the Blueprint of the Council of Europe Campaign to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence. We are about to explore how legal measures can be used effectively to protect women from violence.

Before we get into this in detail, I would like to provide you with a brief overview of the Campaign and the work of the Council of Europe Task Force to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence to explain how this seminar is linked to both.

The Campaign and the Task Force are both a result of a decision by the Council of Europe member states taken at their Third Summit in 2005 to place the fight against domestic violence against women at the highest political level in all member states with the aim of achieving concrete results in ending violence against women.
Eight international experts in the field of preventing and combating violence against women were appointed to this Task Force by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. I would like to acknowledge the presence of Ms Rosa Logar, another member of the Task Force, who is also present here today in her capacity as a member of the Austrian delegation.

The eight of us were, first of all, mandated to develop the blueprint for the Campaign, which was – as you may know - launched during a high-level conference in Madrid in November last year. This document, which you have in your seminar folders, spells out the aims, objectives and messages of the Campaign and describes the activities different actors are invited to pursue. It serves as a roadmap for implementation of the Campaign.

This blueprint clearly recognises that violence against women is a human rights violation corresponding to the responsibility of a State to act with due diligence to prevent violence, to protect women victims of such violence and to punish perpetrators. It also calls on Member states to demonstrate strong political will and provide adequate resources to make real progress in eradicating violence against women, ideally through national campaigns that should include measures for stronger implementation of the Recommendation Rec(2002)5 on the protection of women against violence.

Its objectives focus on four areas: legal and policy measures, support and protection for victims, data collection and awareness raising. In each of these areas we have listed the most important measures which should be taken to make a change in the lives of women who suffer violence at home. Some of these measures suggested in the field of legislation will be discussed during this seminar.

Turning to the Campaign now, I would like to highlight the fact that this Campaign has three different dimensions: intergovernmental, parliamentary and local and regional. While this may seem complicated at first, it is important to unite these key actors to achieve real change. From our experience we know that violence against women cannot be stopped if it is only decision-makers and institutions who are active. Instead, we need to join hands and unite civil society, particularly NGOs that are working very hard at the grass root level, and public actors as well as all others capable and willing to contribute to this campaign. Joint public action and a multi-agency approach is what is needed.

It is of great importance that this Campaign is implemented at national level, through national action. To achieve this, 36 focal points and 34 high-level officials have been appointed within the governments, as well as 43 contact parliamentarians have been nominated in parliaments to initiate such action. I truly hope that we will see many good initiatives and their concrete results that will make a real difference in eliminating valance against women in the family or domestic unit.

The Task Force was not only mandated to prepare the Campaign. Much more importantly, it is also mandated to monitor and assess any improvements at national level and to evaluate the effective functioning of the measures for preventing and combating violence against women adopted at national and international level. It is also entrusted to make proposals for revising these measures or adopting new measures including those to assist member states to monitor progress achieved.

We will base our assessment on several sources of information. One will be reports submitted to us by national focal points on the results of national campaigns. Another very important source will be outcomes of these regional seminars. We hope to get a clear picture of the developments in member states to see which steps are taken and which measures are proving to be effective or ineffective in preventing and combating violence against women at national level. Of course, we will also take into consideration all other available sources, particularly from other international organisations and NGOs.

At its last meeting held in Strasbourg form 6 to 8 February, the Task Force took note of the Resolution No.1 adopted at the 27th Conference of the European Ministers of Justice held in Armenia from 12-13 October 2006 and their call to determine the need for an additional Council of Europe legal instrument on violence against the partner. In line with its mandate, the Task Force will also explore the possibility of developing a binding legal instrument for the Council of Europe member states to combat violence against women. The Task Force pointed out that if that direction prevails, any such binding legal instrument would have to be based on a holistic approach to combat violence against women, including domestic violence, respecting the three guiding principles of prevention, protection and prosecution.

Today, as I have stated at the Launching Conference in Madrid, the main question in this context still is: Do we need a stronger European legal instrument on the prevention of violence against women or stronger implementation mechanisms or both?

As the Chairperson of the Task Force, I hope that by the end of the Campaign we will have received an overview of where Council of Europe member states stand in protecting women from violence and which measures – national and international – should be taken to improve this. A lot has been done in many countries over the past 10 – 15 years, but we all know that much more can and needs to be done. I hope that our final report will help speed up this process.

Thank you very much.