Council of Europe Campaign to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence

Seminar on Men’s Active Participation in Combating Domestic Violence

Zagreb, Croatia
9 May 2007

Speech by Dubravka Šimonović

Vice-Chair, Council of Europe Task Force to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence

It is a special honour and privilege for me to address you in my home town Zagreb at this second regional seminar organized within the framework of the Council of Europe Campaign to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence, devoted to men’s active participation in combating domestic violence.

Every woman has the right to be free from violence in both the public and private sphere.

Do we agree with this? Yes, but reality is very different.

Thousands of women across Europe do not enjoy this right. They are victims of domestic violence. Too many women in too many countries die as a result of intimate partner violence. We do not know numbers of women murdered by their intimate partners. Many more women suffer physical, emotional and sexual abuse by their partners or ex-partners.

All this is known – yet we are not doing enough to combat violence against women including domestic violence.

To fill the gaps at the national and European level, the Council of Europe member states have decided at the Warsaw Summit in 2005 to take measures to combat violence against women including domestic violence and to set up a task force to prepare a pan-European campaign, to evaluate progress and to propose further actions.

The Task Force to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence was set up as a sui generis ad hoc committee directly answerable to the Committee of Ministers. Eight international experts - six women and two men - in the field of preventing and combating violence against women were appointed to this Task Force by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. I am very pleased that two of my Task Force colleagues Ms Rosa Logar and Mr Chriss Green are taking an active part in this seminar.

Before providing you with a brief overview of the work of the Task Force in my capacity as its Vice-Chair I would also like to point out in my other capacity as the Chairperson of the UN CEDAW Committee that at this seminar we have participation not only of high level CoE, but also of UN officials working on women’s rights. This provide us with a golden opportunity to add to our European perspective a global one and to discuss the complementarities of the UN standards on women’s rights including the recent in-depth Study of the UN Secretary General on violence against women with the Council of Europe Campaign standards including the ongoing Campaign to combat domestic violence and its Blueprint as well as their expected results.

In that context, our work on the elimination of discrimination and violence against women at the national and regional level must be firmly grounded on the full implementation of the UN Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women. Let me highlight that this Convention is a legally binding human rights instrument that obliges all its 185 State parties to embody the principle of equality of women and men in their national legislations and to ensure, thought laws and other appropriate means, the practical realization of this principle in all fields of life including the family life. The CEDAW Committee General recommendation No 19 of 1992 on violence against women has provided a comprehensive interpretation of this obligation of States parties to combat violence against women and its root courses.

Going back to the European level and the mandate of the Council of Europe Task Force our first priority was to develop the blueprint for the Campaign to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence. This document, which you have in your seminar folders, spells out the aims, objectives and messages of the Campaign and describes the activities different actors are invited to pursue. It serves as a roadmap for implementation of the Campaign.

Under listed aims this blueprint calls the Council of Europe member states:

Its objectives focus on four areas: legal and policy measures, support and protection for victims, data collection and awareness raising. In each of these areas we have listed the most important measures which should be taken to make a change in the lives of women who suffer violence in their homes.

I would like to highlight some of proposed measures as very pertinent for our work at this seminar, such as the following measures:

Turning to the Campaign now, it was – as you may know - launched during a high-level conference in Madrid in November last year. I would like to highlight the fact that this Campaign has three different dimensions: intergovernmental, parliamentary and local and regional with the aim of achieving real change. I am pleased to see that we have here today representatives from all three dimensions.

It is of particular importance that this Campaign is implemented at the national level, through national action. To achieve this, focal points and high-level officials have been appointed within the governments, and contact parliamentarians have been nominated in parliaments to initiate such action and to co-operate closely with other public actors and NGOs. Pointing to the topic of this seminar, the active participation of men in combating domestic violence I would like to mention that out of 36 high-level officials nine (9) are men and among 39 focal points the number of men is four (4). On the parliamentary side, the number of men is seven (7) among 44 appointed contact parliamentarians.

The Task Force was not only mandated to prepare the Campaign. Much more importantly, it is also mandated to monitor and assess any improvements at national level and to evaluate the effective functioning of the measures for preventing and combating violence against women adopted at national and international level.

The Task Force held its third meeting from 6 to 8 February 2007 and held an exchange of views with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on the expected outcome of its work. At the end of that meeting it was agreed that the Task Force will, in accordance with its mandate, explore the possibility of developing a binding legal instrument for the Council of Europe member states to combat violence against women, including domestic violence. The Task Force pointed out that any such binding legal instrument would have to be based on a holistic approach to combat violence against women, including domestic violence respecting the three guiding principles of prevention, protection and prosecution.

We will base our assessment on several sources of information. One will be reports submitted to us by national focal points at the end of this year. Another very important source will be results of these regional seminars. We hope to get a clear picture of the developments in member states to see which steps are taken and which measures are proving to be effective in preventing and combating violence against women at the national level. Of course, we will also take into consideration all available publications, particularly from other international organisations as well as NGOs.

It is thanks to the hard work of women’s movements and womens’ NGOs in recent years that domestic violence against women has in many countries and internationally become acknowledged as a public issue requiring joint public action. However, much more needs to be done in order to effectively combat this type of violence.

Ladies and gentleman,

Let me now turn more specifically to the relevance of this seminar to the work of the Task Force. As expected results of the Task Force we need to identify other possible roles of men in the context of family violence, not just as perpetrators of violence, but as victims of family violence, as well as their role in both preventing violence within the family and protecting victims of such violence. This seminar will provide the Task Force with important information in this particular area.

We know that violence against women cannot be stopped unless men join women in the fight against domestic violence. For this, men and women need to engage in a dialogue to address discriminatory traditions and attitudes as well as gender stereotypes as root causes of violence against women.

The quest for eradicating domestic violence poses a positive challenge to men, who remain largely represented in leadership positions in political and public life in most of our countries, to use their power and political will to take effective measures to combat domestic violence. On the other hand men can also take other active roles, as we will hear today, as professionals, colleagues, family members, partners and friends and neighbours to speak against domestic violence. The most important thing is to understand that everyone, through their private and public roles in society, can contribute to combating domestic violence against women.

On behalf of the Task Force, I hope that by the end of the Campaign we will have received an overview of where Council of Europe member states stand in protecting women from violence and what measures should be taken to improve this in order to achieve real change. I look forward to the discussions during next two days which will help us in this task.

Thank you very much.