9/10/2012 - Around the world â€“ and indeed across Europe â€“ women are beaten and
threatened. Domestic violence is the most common form of abuse of women
worldwide, irrespective of economics, religion or culture, says Nils MuiĹľnieks,
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his
latest Human Rights Comment published on 9 October.
There is a strange acceptance of
the prevalence of domestic violence and violence against women in every country.
Far too often the problem is pushed aside, and far too often the woman herself
is blamed. The question â€śwhy doesnÂ´t she leave?â€ť seems more frequently asked
than â€śwhy does he hit her?â€ť
very common crime
One-fifth to one-quarter of all women in the Council of Europe member
states are estimated to 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 these acts are carried out by men
in the womenâ€™s immediate social environment, most often by partners and
approximately 3 500 deaths related to intimate partner violence occur in the 27
member states of the European Union alone, according to
a study from the
EU programme DAPHNE.
figure was presented by the government of the United Kingdom on 8 March this
year: â€ťIn the last year
alone, there were over 1 million female victims of domestic abuse in England and
Wales.â€ť That day the UK
launched an updated
National Action Plan with 100 actions to â€śtackle all aspects of
violence against women and girlsâ€ť.
What needs to be done
Today the vast majority
of the 47 Council of Europe member states have a national action plan to protect
women from violence. Those states that do not, should work to create one as soon
The action plan should,
among other things, include:
Awareness raising activities
Victim support services
Well-trained law enforcement
Cooperation with civil society
Much of the work, such
as running shelters, is typically carried out by non-governmental groups. The
authorities have a responsibility to assist. It is also important that staff at
health clinics and police officers â€“ the first services to come into contact
with victims â€“ are well trained to recognise the signs of domestic violence and
to give gender sensitive support.
Awareness of the
particular vulnerability of migrant women is of special importance. A migrant
woman is less likely to report an incident to the police for fear of losing her
residence status â€“ especially when her status is dependent on that of her
During a visit to
Finland I was informed that the likelihood that a woman will fall victim to
domestic violence in that country was more than double the European Union
average. To fight this violence a cross-sectoral
National Action Plan has been introduced.
Convention â€“ an important tool
All member states should
ratify and implement the Council of Europe
Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic
Violence (The Istanbul Convention).
The Convention, which
was adopted in April 2011, is a practical tool, which requires a wide range of
measures. It is governed by the â€śThree Pâ€™s Principleâ€ť: Prevention, Protection
Sadly, so far only
Turkey has ratified this convention. 23 Council of Europe member states have
signed it. Of these, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Austria have announced
that ratification will take place soon. It would be good if the remaining
signatories ratified soon as well.
Cut-backs will not
against women is costly â€“ but not addressing gender-based violence costs even
more. Direct and indirect costs are usually born by the victims, employers, the
healthcare system and society at large â€“ and thus the taxpayers.
In times of crisis and austerity it
is important to be aware that the
socio-economic costs connected to violence against women might be less evident,
but not less real â€“ and that cut-backs in this area should be avoided.
treat violence against women as a gender-based human rights violation, which
reflects persisting inequality between women and men. The figures tell of
psychological, physical and even lethal abuse, sometimes over long periods of
time. The only possible stance is zero tolerance. Action needs to be
taken by both central and local governments in Europe as a whole. Now.
Press contact in the Commissionerâ€™s Office:
Montanari, + 33 (0)6 61 14 70 37;
Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent, non-judicial institution within
the Council of Europe, mandated to promote awareness of, and respect for, human
rights in the 47 member states of the Organisation. Elected by the Parliamentary
Assembly of the Council of Europe, the present Commissioner, Mr Nils MuiĹľnieks,
took up his function on 1 April 2012
For more information see: www.coe.int / www.coe.ge