SPEECH BY THE SECRETARY GENERAL
Strasbourg, 5 June 2007
· As you know, the Third Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe established a campaign against violence against women, including domestic violence, as one of the priorities of the Council of Europe, and the Heads of State and Government also decided to set up a Task Force and undertake a Europe-wide campaign to combat this evil. Implementation of the Campaign is a very important issue for the Council of Europe, which is why it relies heavily on you.
· Some of you were present at the successful launch of the Campaign at a conference in Madrid last November, and the launch provided an opportunity for us to demonstrate that violence against women, including domestic violence, is one of the most serious violations of human rights. The outcome of the Conference was both positive and forward-looking, and it raised expectations about action by the Council of Europe during this Campaign and about the actions and measures to be taken by member states. You are here to help us to meet these expectations, and it follows that you have a challenging, but rewarding, task before you.
· The governments which you represent must ensure that action is taken to support and protect women effectively. Similarly, the parliaments which you represent have an equally important responsibility to ensure that the relevant legislation is adopted to support and protect these women effectively. We all have responsibilities in breaking the silence about domestic violence, helping the victims and preventing future abuses. To have results we must work together. We must co-operate.
· This Conference can help us to reinforce our co-operation. The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has adopted a recommendation to member states on the protection of women against violence. This Recommendation was the first international instrument to propose a global strategy to prevent violence, protect victims and cover all forms of gender-based violence. Our Campaign is an opportunity to take a fresh look at this document and explore ways to implement it in all our countries.
· Since the purpose of this Campaign is to make a real difference in the lives of victims, it is vitally important to provide member states and professionals with tools for addressing violence against women and provide women with the right kind of professional help and support. That is why the Council of Europe is organising expert seminars and other events during this Campaign. They focus on topics such as the role of men, legal measures to combat violence against women, services to support and protect the victims of violence and qualitative and quantitative standards for shelters for these victims.
· Similarly, lots of activities have taken place within the parliamentary and the local and regional dimensions of the Campaign. Parliamentary Days of Action have already been organised in 25 countries, and Days of Parliamentary Hearings around International Women’s Day were organised in 10 countries this year. Several towns and regions across Europe have contributed to the Campaign by organising awareness raising weeks, using the Council of Europe visual image of the Campaign.
· You do not need me to tell you that high-level officials, focal points and contact parliamentarians have a central role in ensuring that the Campaign is successfully implemented in all our member states, but perhaps I can recap the objectives:
1. any and every act of violence against women in our member states must be criminalised;
2. violence committed by a partner or former partner in any of our member states must be considered an aggravating circumstance;
3. our member states should adopt judicial procedures to take account of specific needs such as special courts for domestic violence and specialised units within the police, the public prosecutors or the judiciary;
4. every member state should set up a national emergency help-line, open 24 hours a day, every day and free of charge, for victims of domestic violence;
5. all our member states should set up safe shelters for the victims of domestic violence;
6. it should be publicly acknowledged everywhere that domestic violence is not a private matter, but a human rights violation which is the business of all public authorities and every single individual.
Perhaps in this way, the foundation will be laid for the preparation of the first European legally binding treaty to protect women from violence and prosecute the perpetrators.