Secretary General Jagland: Europe must do more to investigate cases of violence against women

Strasbourg , 

In this comment, Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, explains why more governments need to sign and ratify the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on violence against women.

“Daily headlines tell us that violence against women sadly continues around the world. The Council of Europe makes ending such violence a top priority, because it breeches basic human rights.

One need not look far to comprehend the massive scope of the problem.

Millions of women and girls worldwide experience violence every day. This abuse takes many forms, including intimate physical and sexual partner violence, female genital mutilation, child and forced marriage, sex trafficking, and rape. A just published Lancet Series on Violence against women and girls shows that such abuse is preventable.

Progress is being achieved since our ground-breaking convention to end violence against women, also known as the Istanbul Convention, entered into force for the 15 countries that have ratified it so far.

Specific measures are being taken. For example, police will be better trained to deal with domestic violence cases, stations will be upgraded so that people who suffer domestic violence can be heard privately and police will build facilities to offer temporary shelter in certain cases.

The need to monitor

The convention will soon be enforced by an independent group of experts who will monitor how governments comply with the convention’s 81 articles.

Our Committee of Ministers is set to approve the rules of procedure that would define how this Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, or “GREVIO”, would operate.

The monitoring group will be composed of 10 independent experts initially, but their number will rise to 15, once the convention has been ratified by 25 states. GREVIO’s monitoring will be based on information submitted by governments in response to questionnaires, and information provided by civil society and human rights institutions.

Award-winning vision

As the first legally binding set of standards on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence in Europe, our convention requires governments to prevent violence, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.

Its wide ranging scope – covering all forms of violence against women and girls, from female genital mutilation to stalking – was honoured recently by the World Future Council, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and UN Women. In a ceremony in Geneva last month, they recognized our convention with the prestigious “Vision Award”, which acclaims the vision our convention carries for women in Europe and beyond to lead a life free of violence.

NGOs are promoting our convention as well. To mark the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Amnesty International and the Council of Europe are releasing a comprehensive guide to help governments understand how to use the Council of Europe’s convention as a tool to end female genital mutilation and to help civil society give examples of actions to fight the practice.

I call on all remaining member states of the Council of Europe to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention, because it provides governments with the opportunity to lift the silence and taboos around all forms of violence against women”.