Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence

Domestic violence against women is a rising phenomenon that knows no geographical boundary, age limit or colour bar, and affects every type of family relationship and social class. Statistics show that 12% to 15% of women in Europe face violence in the home every day. It is one of the most widespread violations of human rights worldwide, and must be combated.

Since the 1990s, the Council of Europe has actively promoted the protection of women and girls from gender-based violence, namely by adopting Recommendation (2002) 5 on the protection of women against violence and by running a Europe-wide campaign on violence against women, including domestic violence in 2006-2008.

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence is the most far-reaching international treaty to tackle this serious violation of human rights. It aims at zero tolerance for such violence and is a major step forward in making Europe and beyond a safer place.

Preventing violence, protecting its victims and prosecuting the perpetrators are the cornerstones of the convention. It also seeks to change the hearts and minds of individuals by calling on all members of society, in particular men and boys, to change attitudes. In essence, it is a renewed call for greater equality between women and men, because violence against women is deeply rooted in the inequality between women and men in society and is perpetuated by a culture of tolerance and denial.

2023 Edition
Statement by Dominique Hasler, President of the Committee of Ministers and Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe
How the Istanbul Convention is saving lives

As we approach the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, sobering statistics remind us of the urgent need to stop this violence, and a landmark treaty is proving increasingly successful to do just that: the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (known as the Istanbul Convention).

This year, the European Union ratification of the Istanbul Convention increased the number of parties and delivered a powerful message that ending violence against women is a shared priority across Europe.

Ukraine, despite facing terrible challenges of the war of aggression, last year ratified the treaty, as did the Republic of Moldova and the United Kingdom.

This landmark Council of Europe convention, which is also open to non-member states, has so far 38 parties which are bound by our treaty and its four supporting key pillars: prevention of violence, protection of victims, prosecution of perpetrators, and integration of co-ordinated good policies.

The independent expert group responsible for monitoring the treaty’s implementation (GREVIO) has found that every state party it has monitored has taken practical steps that stop violence against women and combat domestic violence.

As GREVIO’s reports have shown, new measures have been introduced prohibiting perpetrators from approaching their victims, including new emergency barring orders that allow law enforcement to temporarily evict perpetrators of domestic violence from a shared residence. These reports are also an invaluable source for the European Court of Human Rights when adjudicating relevant cases.

Monitoring has revealed how specialised support services, such as 24/7 specialised telephone helplines are being increasingly introduced, as well as shelters to protect victims. We welcome amendments to legislation in many member states that base the definition of rape on the lack of freely given consent. This change now allows for the prosecution of cases that could not previously be criminalised under prior legislation.

2024 will see the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the Council of Europe, grounded in the European Convention on Human Rights. 2024 will also mark the 10th anniversary of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence coming into force in August 2014.

We call on all Council of Europe member states which have not yet done so, and other interested states outside Europe, to join our treaty and our efforts to end violence against women. While much has been achieved over the past ten years, in a world where 1 in 3 women have been subject to violence, we need to achieve still more together.

Council of Europe Strasbourg 24 November 2023
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