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Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence

10/10/2012

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence was opened for signature in Istanbul on 11 May 2011. It is the first European legal instrument to create a comprehensive legal framework to protect women against all forms of violence. On 27 September 2012, Italy became the 23rd member state of the Council of Europe to sign the Convention and on 14 March 2012, Turkey became the first member state of the Council of Europe to ratify it. The Convention will enter into force when it has been ratified by 10 countries, eight of which must be Council of Europe member states.

puppets illustrating domestic violence in families

Context and historical background

The Convention is based on the understanding that gender-based violence is a structural mechanism used to sustain male dominance:
The Convention leaves no doubt: there can be no real equality between women and men if women experience gender-based violence on a large-scale and state agencies and institutions turn a blind eye.
It is important to note that the Convention does not only apply to women. Parties to the Convention are also encouraged to apply its protective framework to men, children and the elderly exposed to domestic violence.
The Convention is part of a series of measures undertaken by the Council of Europe to promote the protection of women against violence. In 2002, the Council of Europe Recommendation Rec(2002)5 of the Committee of Ministers was adopted, initiating a Europe-wide campaign to combat violence against women from 2006-2008. The Parliamentary Assembly has also adopted several resolutions calling for legally-binding standards on preventing, protecting against and prosecuting gender-based violence.
The draft of the Convention was finalised in December 2010, and adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers on 7 April 2011. Once a country ratifies the Convention it must put measures in place to ensure the prevention of violence against women and domestic violence, the protection of its victims and the prosecution of the perpetrators, thereby creating an environment of zero-tolerance for violence against women and domestic violence. It must also report to a group of independent experts responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Convention.

Affecting change

At the regional conference entitled ‘Effective ways to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence’ held in November 2011 in Bratislava, Slovakia, Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe spoke about the Conventionpdf. She outlined its two overarching purposes as follows:
  1. The Convention introduces a whole new approach to violence prevention and victim protection by requiring all relevant actors to co-operate and co-ordinate in order to weave a net of safety around the victim.
  2. The Convention seeks to change the hearts and minds of individuals by calling on all members of society, in particular men and boys, to change attitudes.
De Boer-Buquicchio went on to outline three changes the Convention hopes to bring about. The first of these is lifting the taboo surrounding reporting and fighting against violence towards women. The second focuses on ensuring women are treated with ‘empathy and professionalism’, to be achieved through extensive training of the police, the prosecution services and the judiciary. The third change concerns the establishment of services for victims of violence and domestic abuse. De Boer-Buquicchio highlighted the economic cost of domestic abuse and the practical implications this Convention could have in both financial and societal terms at the national level, something which has also been raised in other addressespdf. Indeed the Convention has been the subject of numerous speeches and addresses which can be accessed here.
Latest news as well as further information regarding the Convention can be accessed here.
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