In its first report on implementation by the Netherlands of the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (widely known as the “Istanbul Convention”), the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts (GREVIO) stresses the country’s long history of addressing domestic violence and other forms of violence against women through policy and legislation, with a strong focus on the gendered nature of domestic violence.
Many promising initiatives have been launched to raise awareness of forms of violence as diverse as forced marriage, female genital mutilation, cyber violence, sexual harassment, including street harassment and sexual violence. There is also a strong commitment to reach out to young people in order to break social taboos and build healthy intimate relationships based on consent and the principle of equality between women and men.
More recently, however, the firm recognition of the power imbalance between women and men and its impact on women’s exposure has given way to a more gender-neutral approach. For example, the 2018-21 National Action Plan “Violence does not belong anywhere” sets out a view of domestic violence that is gender neutral, with no recognition for women as a group at particular risk from gender-based harm.
The report explains that gender-neutral policies carry the risk of interventions by professionals that lack gender sensitivity, lead to gaps in protection and support, and contribute to the re-victimisation of women.
The report calls for the introduction of a strong gender perspective in the provision of support services. It is vital to recognise women’s experiences as victims, the underlying power dynamics of domestic abuse and control, women’s dependency on the abuser and the implications for custody of children.