In many member states, the overwhelming majority of services for victims of domestic violence, but also services for victims of sexual violence, stalking, forced marriage and others, are run by non-governmental or civil society organisations. These organisations have a long-standing tradition of providing shelter, legal advice, medical and psychological counselling. They also run hotlines and other essential services. However, many such services experience funding insecurity and operate in small geographic areas only. In most countries, the overall number of available services does not match the demand of victims. Often, this is because the provision of services is not considered a necessity, but a voluntary activity of NGOs.
For this reason, the convention recognises the work of NGOs and seeks to ensure greater political and financial support for their work. It includes provisions that oblige parties to encourage and support their work by tapping into their expertise, involving them as partners in multi-agency co-operation and supporting their awareness-raising efforts. This can help to enhance results of measures taken to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence. Supporting NGOs and civil society organisations means enabling them to carry out their work in the best possible way, for example by setting up co-operative structures between law enforcement agencies and shelters, advertising NGO hotlines and services in government information material but also ensuring relevant public and political support. The convention also includes the obligation for parties to allocate appropriate financial and human resources for activities carried out by non-governmental organisations and civil society.
Finally, NGOs will also play a role in the monitoring of the implementation of the convention. The group of experts in charge of the monitoring process may receive information from NGOs on a party‘s implementation of the convention which would complement the information provided by the party itself.
Exposure to physical, sexual or psychological violence and abuse has a severe impact on children. It breeds fear, causes trauma and adversely affects their development. Violence against women and domestic violence in its direct or indirect form can have harmful consequences for their health and lives. In the case of domestic violence it is acknowledged that children do not need to be directly affected by the violence to be considered victims as witnessing domestic violence is just as traumatising.
The convention covers various forms of violence against women and domestic violence. Victims of such violence are typically girls and women of all ages. Boys and men, however, may also fall victim of certain types of violence that fall within the scope of the convention, in particular domestic violence and forced marriage. For this reason, states are encouraged to extend the application of the measures set out in the convention to boys and men.
Furthermore, there are several provisions that deal explicitly with children. They require states to do the following:
1) In the area of prevention:
1. conduct or promote awareness-raising campaigns on the different manifestations of violence against women and domestic violence and their consequences on children.
2. develop and promote, in co-operation with the private sector, skills among children, parents and educators concerning how to deal with violent and harmful content in the communications environment.
3. ensure that preventive measures address the specific needs of child victims.
2) In the area of protection and support:
1. provide specialist support services to women victims of gender-based violence and their children.
2. set up shelters that provide safe accommodation for women and their children.
3. ensure that the rights and needs of child witnesses are taken into account when providing protection and support services to victims.
4. ensure that significant incidents of violence against women and domestic violence are taken into account when determining custody and visitation rights.
3) In the area of prosecution:
1. criminalise the act of intentionally forcing a child to enter into a marriage, or that of luring the child to another country in order to force her or him to enter into a marriage.
2. ensure that criminal legislation covers the incitement of a child to commit crimes in the name of “honour”.
3. ensure that child victims and child witnesses are afforded special protection measures at all stages of investigations and judicial proceedings.
The Council of Europe works extensively on children’s rights and on the protection of children from violence. For more information, please visit http://www.coe.int/children.