“Efficient data collection can help us step up the fight against violence against women, which is more urgent than ever at a time of pandemics. Violence against women is a violation of fundamental human rights, a manifestation of the unequal power relations between women and men and an obstacle to achieving gender equality. We need to do more to end it.”
Statement by Ms Zita Gurmai (Hungary, SOC), General Rapporteur on Violence against women and coordinator of the Network, on the occasion of the CSW65 side-event on Violence against women in the public and private spheres: measure it to end it. Read more on the event below.
21 June – Conference – The Istanbul Convention, a powerful tool for protection against violence
On 21 June, the Parliamentary Network Women Free from Violence will hold a hearing on the theme of “The Istanbul Convention, a powerful tool for protection against violence”. The event will take place during the hybrid part-session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, allowing members to participate remotely or in person. Participants will discuss the importance of the Istanbul Convention in preventing and combating violence against women, and guest speakers, including Mr Bjørn Berge, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, will talk about the impact of the convention. Ms Zita Gurmai, General Rapporteur on violence against women, will moderate the event.
21 June 2021, 14:00-15:00 (CEST)
Members of the Assembly are invited to register to the event by using the enrolment form: https://pace-apps.coe.int/.
The event will be livestreamed on Facebook in English and via KUDO in English, French, Italian, Russian and German (no registration needed).
23 June – High-level event – The Council of Europe Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence: 10 years on
The Parliamentary Assembly will mark the 10th anniversary of the Istanbul Convention with an event on this topic on Wednesday 23 June, during the plenary session. The event, an initiative of PACE President Rik Daems, will include speeches by high-level speakers including Ms Nadia Murad, winner of the 2016 Václav Havel Human Rights Prize and the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize. Ms Zita Gurmai, General Rapporteur on Violence against women, will present the conclusions of the event, highlighting the way forward to make progress with the signature, ratification and effective implementation of the Istanbul Convention.
On 3 June, the Network joined PACE’s Committees on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons and on Equality and Non-Discrimination for a webinar on Gender and Migration. Gender-specific vulnerabilities and discrimination on the ground as well as gender equality in migration policies were discussed in two sessions. The Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assembly, Ms Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis, opened the webinar, which was moderated by committee members Petra Stienen and Sena Nur Çelik.
14 April – hearing – Strengthening the fight against so-called “honour” crimes
On 14 April, the Network and PACE’s Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination held a joint hearing on Strengthening the fight against so-called “honour” crimes.
Ms Jasvinder Sanghera, CBE, Founder of Karma Nirvana and Survivor of Honour Abuse (United Kingdom), Ms Rachel Eapen Paul, GREVIO member in respect of Norway and Ms Isabelle Gillette-Faye, Sociologist, General Director of GAMS (Women's group for the abolition of sexual mutilations, forced marriages and other practices affecting women's and children's health), France, took part in the hearing.
Members first heard a powerful testimony from Ms Jasvinder Sanghera, who described the abuse and control she had been exposed to as a teenager. Promised to a man of whom she had only ever seen a photograph at the age of eight, her family made her believe that she would cause them dishonour and shame if she refused the marriage. At 16, she ran away from home and was disowned by her family. Ms Sanghera highlighted the difficulty of challenging family values, because of the social cost, the fear of reprisals, but also the perception of this situation as normal by the victims: “We are conditioned to believe that we should conform to a "honour" based system. I understood I had to dress modestly, could not look at a boy, could not cut my hair. I was told it was normal. School makes us question the system; it is the best place for change.”
While taking stock of the current situation regarding so-called “honour” crimes in Europe, guest speakers presented recommendations to prevent and combat such crimes, including the need for further research on the application of mitigation circumstances and the dismantlement of the concept of “honour”. National plans of action should be set up, including training of judicial professionals, teachers and social workers, awareness-raising activities and education, as well as criminal law reforms. All forms of violence, including threats and intimidation, sometimes leading to forced suicides, should be investigated and properly prosecuted. Projects centred around the provision of services to victims should be funded, as well as preventive actions addressing attitudes and norms leading to so-called “honour” crimes. Panellists recalled that such crimes are a violation of basic human rights and are addressed in art. 42 of the Istanbul Convention, stating that “culture, custom, religion, tradition or so-called “honour” shall not be regarded as justification for such acts [of violence against women]”.
The findings of the hearing have fed into Ms Béatrice Fresko-Rolfo’s, Network member for Monaco, report on Strengthening the fight against so-called “honour” crimes.
15 March – CSW65 side-event – Violence against women in the public and private spheres: measure it to end it
On 15 March, the Network and the Sub-Committee on Gender Equality of the PACE organised a side-event at the Commission on the Status of Women 65 in cooperation with Switzerland. The event was held on “Violence against women in the public and private spheres: measure it to end it – The importance of data collection and research in combating VAW”.
Guest speakers included Ms Clara Cabrera Brasero, Ambassador-at-large for Gender Equality in Foreign Policy (Spain), Ms Hilde Barstad, State Secretary for the Minister of Justice and Public Security (Norway), Ms Imen Houimel, Expert in gender-based violence for the Minister of Women, Family, Childhood and Seniors (Tunisia), Ms Delphine O, Ambassador and Secretary General of the Generation Equality Forum 2021 for the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (France), Ms Åsa Regnér, Deputy Executive Director, Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships at UN Women and Ms Cristina Fabre, Team Leader, Gender Based Violence for the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE).
Introductory remarks were made by Ms Zita Gurmai, General Rapporteur on violence against women, and the event was moderated by Ms Petra Bayr, Chairperson of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination of the PACE. Closing remarks were made by Ms Eglantina Gjermeni, Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on Gender Equality of the PACE Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, and Ms Sylvie Durrer, Director of the Federal Office for Gender Equality, Switzerland
The event provided a discussion platform to raise awareness on the importance of data collection and research in combating violence against women. Members of the Network as well as a large public were able to ask questions through the chat.
On the International Women’s Day, members of the PACE shared their commitment to promoting women’s rights via a series of “postcards” shared on Twitter and Facebook. Quotes from key reports adopted by the PACE on the advancement of women’s rights were shared, as well as personal takes on the next moves needed to reach effective gender equality by Zita Gurmai (Hungary, SOC), General Rapporteur on violence against women, Petra Bayr (Austria, SOC), Chair of the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, Eglantina Gjermeni (Albania, SOC), Chair of the Sub-Committee on Gender Equality, Petra Stienen (Netherlands, ALDE), PACE Rapporteur on “The gender dimension of foreign policy” and “Upholding human rights in times of crisis and pandemics: gender, equality and non-discrimination”, Momodou Malcolm Jallow (Sweden, UEL), General Rapporteur on combating racism and discrimination, and Fourat Ben Chikha (Belgium, SOC), PACE General Rapporteur on the rights of LGBTI people.
Stay tuned on the Network’s Facebook page as well as @PACE_Equality on Twitter for the next social media campaigns and latest news on gender-based violence.
“National legislation is not enough to replace the Istanbul Convention. Good practices and tools put forward by GREVIO’s recommendations are needed to combat violence against women. The convention is a tool to take effective action. The Parliamentary Assembly set the fight against violence against women as a priority, and the June part-session will focus on tackling this issue.”
Rik Daems, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, during the Conference on "Gender equality and the Istanbul Convention: a decade of action" organised by the Gender Equality Division and the Violence against Women Division of the Council of Europe, in partnership with the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth in the framework of the German Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, 11 May 2021.
The revised Handbook for parliamentarians will soon be available in new languages. An important practical tool for parliamentarians to combat violence against women by enhancing their capacities with regards to the implementation and monitoring of the Istanbul Convention at the national level, the Handbook is available in English, French, German, Italian, Russian and Dutch on the Network’s website. If the Handbook doesn’t yet exist in your language, proposals for translation are welcome, and assistance in managing the publication can be provided. Our aim is to enable this indispensable practical tool to be widely used in Europe and beyond. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for any enquiries.
The Liechtenstein Parliament approved the ratification of the Istanbul Convention with a majority of 23 MPs out of 25, showing its commitment to fight violence against women and domestic violence. The country deposited the instrument of ratification on 17 June, becoming the 34th country to ratify the Istanbul Convention. Read the news here.
The 2nd activity report of the Council of Europe Expert Group on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO), based on its work in 17 Council of Europe member States, has been issued. The report outlines trends in the provision of services to survivors of violence against women and domestic violence and addresses the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on such services. GREVIO also published a mid-term horizontal review offering a comprehensive assessment of the measures taken by states parties and showing how much progress has been made.
The Advocate General of the European Court of Justice adopted an Opinion on the accession of the European Union to the Istanbul Convention. The Opinion underlined that the Convention may be concluded on the basis of Articles 78(2), 82(2), 84 and 336 TFEU, by means of two separate acts: the accession “would be compatible with the Treaties if it were adopted in the absence of a common agreement of all Member States on their consent to be bound by that convention. In addition, however, it would also be compatible with the Treaties if it were adopted only after such common agreement had been established”.
The Generation Equality Forum concluded its Mexico session on 31st March 2021 and will resume in Paris from 30 June to 2 July. Information about the event can be found here.
The European Institute for Gender Equality has released new findings on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on gender equality in Europe, among which severe job losses for women across Europe, an increase in work-life balance pressure and a lack of adequate support measures for survivors of domestic violence.