Women, Violence and Art - Parliamentary Network Women Free from Violence

Strasbourg , 

Dear Parliamentarians,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for this opportunity to provide you with an update on the Istanbul Convention and the work of our Organisation to combat violence against women.

26 states have now signed the Convention, and 4 more member states have ratified it.

The ratification instrument by Italy is ready and will be deposited soon. In addition, Austria, France and Serbia are very close to ratifying. Also Andorra, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden are making good progress as well, and I am therefore hopeful that we will have the five more ratifications needed for the Convention to enter into force this year or early next year.

The Council of Europe is actively supporting our member States in their efforts towards ratification. Specific activities are taking place with Ukraine and Poland, and we are preparing guidance notes and studies on several aspects of the Convention to help member States implement its provisions.

Furthermore, in partnership with UN Women, we are carrying out a multi-country study on availability and accessibility of services in response to violence against women and girls in South East Europe

A Europe-wide action consisting of awareness-raising events on sexual violence and the Istanbul Convention will be carried out in co-operation with The European Women's Lobby during their 16 Days of Activism on Gender-Based Violence, from 25 November to 10 December.

In Bulgaria, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia we are supporting strategies and policies by providing legal expertise and exchange of good practices.

We are also working with the South-Mediterranean countries Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia in the framework of our Neighbourhood Policy.

We are also carrying out the fourth round of monitoring of Recommendation (2002) 5 of the Committee of Ministers on the protection of women against violence, to serve as a baseline for the future monitoring of the Istanbul Convention. 

Finally in Amsterdam, next week, the International Conference on "The image of women in the Media" will shed light on gender stereotypes and their impact on violent attitudes against women.


But let me turn to the topic of your hearing which is Women, Violence and Art.

As you know, a recent report by the World Health Organization concluded that more than one in three women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence, and that 38% of all women murdered were killed by their partners.

Figures are important. They make it more difficult to trivialize the violence. They help us to argue the necessity of allocating resources. And they incite us to join forces.

But numbers alone cannot make us fully grasp the cruel reality they reflect. Art may sometimes do so with great sincerity, passion and conviction.

Artists do not provide the social cures. But they are able to provoke and convey emotion for some of the most difficult questions facing society.

I was recently reminded of this on a visit to the deeply disturbing exhibition of photographic work by the American artist, Cindy Sherman, at the new Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo.

Cindy Sherman portrays the intimate connections between power and violence, both in the institutional sense and in the rituals and re-enactments of everyday life.

Her work spans the last 35 years and includes presentations and
re-presentations of herself in many different appearances - often subjected to cruelty and violence.

This recent exhibition of her work was shocking, witty, captivating, funny, and at the same time profoundly humane. All kinds of women, of all ages and social backgrounds, yet ultimately always the same - the artist herself – both multiplied and reduced to a standard situation or a gendered stereotype.

For me, Sherman's art served as a reminder of the humiliations to which women are subjected, but also of their regenerative power. My personal experience of her art was also therefore one of hope.

I will conclude as I am very much looking forward to listening to the different experiences of the three artists present today.

Thank you for your attention.