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Speech to ADHIKAR Conference on Domestic Violence

London - 30 10 00.  
Jill Evans MEP

I would like to thank the Metropolitan police service on this very important conference and thank you for giving me the opportunity to contribute.  The European Parliament, and in particular the Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities Committee of which I am Vice-Chair, has a strong commitment to combat all forms of violence against women by legal, administrative and whatever other measures can be employed.  The work that has been done by the Parliament and the Commission has helped to put the issue high on the political agenda of the European Union, which helps, as this conference does, to end the silence which has surrounded domestic violence for so long.  For centuries no one talked about it, no one admitted to witnessing it no one did anything to prevent it.
I recently heard a very frightening statistic. During the Vietnam War 58,000 American soldiers were killed. As with those who have died in other conflicts, memorials are put up in their honour. But during the same period, between 30,000 and 54,000 American women were killed in their homes. Why is this war against women allowed to continue?

Violence by male partners is the single largest cause of injury to women - more than muggings and car accidents combined. Yet violence against women has remained largely unreported.  Thanks largely to the activities of voluntary women's organisations; today that is changing.

Domestic abuse knows no class, age or geographical boundaries.  Every women and child in every area of the world can be a victim.  It is the most graphic symptom of the imbalance of power in the relationship between men and women.  It was recognition of this that led the United Nations to include violence in its definition of gender-based discrimination in 1992.

Domestic abuse is predominantly carried out by men against women and children.  This is not to say that men cannot be victims and it is not about denying that domestic abuse takes place within same sex relationships, but recent research has shown that 98% of all victims of domestic violence are women and that on an European level one women in five has been subjected to violence by her husband or partner on at least one occasion.

And the affect on children is profound.  Welsh Women's Aid statistics show that 90% of children in a domestic violence situation are in the same room or the next room during attacks on their mothers.  A third of them try to intervene to protect their mothers.

Yet the prosecution of the abuser is still the exception rather than the rule and only about one in twenty incidents of domestic violence are reported to the police.

So what has been done on a European level to eradicate violence against women?

The issue was first raised in a report on trafficking in women in 1996.  This was followed in 1997 by the launch of the DAPHNE initiative to combat domestic abuse within the European Union.  At that time, many reports of abuse against women and children were coming to the fore and it was recognised that there was a lack of both information and coherent responses to the problems of domestic abuse particularly on a European Union wide basis.  The original remit of the DAPHNE programme was to strengthen non-governmental and other organisations in their fight to combat violence against children, young people and women.  Violence was defined in the widest possible sense from sexual abuse to domestic violence, from commercial exploitation to bullying in schools, from trafficking to discrimination based violence against disabled, minority, migrant or other vulnerable people.

In the three years from 1997 to 11.8 million ECU had been spent funding a total of 150 projects throughout the EU. 

Examples of the type of projects which have been undertaken include studies into the role of and the best practice models in regional and local government; the development of a curriculum to break the cycle of victims of violence becoming perpetrators; the setting up of networks of men working against male violence; a public radio campaign to raise awareness; projects to protect girls and young women of Muslin origin against violence in the family; research on access of migrant and ethnic minority women and girls to support services, with particular reference to trafficking; surveys and public awareness-raising of the phenomenon of violence against homosexual adults; the setting up of a European directory of telephone help lines for children and awareness raising TV programmes and films.

The Daphne initiative also linked in with other European Union programmes to combat violence, like the STOP programme to improve international co-operation in the fight against the trade in human beings, the Violence in Schools Initiative, the Youth Programme and measures on illegal and harmful content on the internet.

In 1999 a European awareness campaign on violence against women was also launched and ran until May this year.  It's message was "Domestic Violence is a crime; Domestic Violence - Breaking the Silence".  Materials were produced in eleven languages, including a booklet, posters, a short television and radio announcement and a major Euro barometer survey on Europeans and their opinion about domestic violence against women.  Sixty-nine projects were funded, most originated by Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs).  The main target groups were young people, women in violent relationships and violent and potentially violent men.

It was not the success it should have been.  One of the main reasons for this was the reluctance of the press and media to really address this most disturbing form of violence, which happens in our own homes - within the family.  Admitting that family violence occurs is challenging the very idea of what family means within the structure of society.  This raises questions about the male dominated media industry and their reluctance, possibly to take up issues that challenge their position.  There was also a varied response from the member states - some took up the campaign enthusiastically but others did not give it the priority it deserved.

So the awareness raising has to continue.  This was recognised clearly by the Portuguese Presidency of the European Union who organised an international conference on Violence Against Women: Zero Tolerance in Lisbon this year.  They called for a Year Against Violence Against Women before 2003 across all the European member states and the countries applying to join the EU.  They also called for a unit on violence against women to be set up within the European Commission to co-ordinate, develop and monitor the work.  The current French presidency is taking these issues forward.

There are problems when looking at domestic abuse on an EU level.  The first is statistics - the data collection systems of the member states are different.  This makes an already hidden problem even more difficult to unearth.  The Women’s Rights and Equal Opportunities Committee of the European Parliament has called on the European Council and the member states to develop indicators and to systematically record incidences of domestic violence, trafficking, rape and sexual harassment.  This must be done if we are to have a co-ordinated approach to domestic abuse and if the size of the problem is to be recognised as well as the fact that it is not random or accidental but structural.

Another major problem is the inconsistency between the legal systems of the various member states.  In several countries rape within marriage is not recognised as a criminal act and the penalties for smuggling drugs are much higher than the penalty for trafficking women, which often leads to forced prostitution.

Another inconsistency is in the support provided to this who suffer domestic violence in the different member states of the EU.  If we accept that only 5% of the incidences of domestic violence are reported to the police, then what happens to the victims of the other 95% of attacks?  Our Committee has consistently called for adequate victim services such as psychological counselling, witness protection, shelters, help lines and legal services.  I know that for example in Wales, the area which I represent, there is excellent provision of such services from Welsh Women's Aid.  However, I am also aware that many services are under threat every year because their funding is not guaranteed.  In many areas when local authorities have to cut funding, the voluntary sector services are the first to suffer.  But these services are essential and there must be a better structure in place to ensure that this is recognised financially.  Welsh Women's Aid gets over 15,000 calls a year and rising.  The refuges for women and children are always full and often overcrowded.  If we are serious about dealing with domestic violence this should be one of the first issues to be addressed by governments.

In January a new four-year DAPHNE programme was launched with 20 million Euro funding.  Its aim once more is to provide added value to the actions of the member states in preventing violence, sexual exploitation and abuse by exchanging information and experience, networking, supporting, motivating and mobilising all those who work in the field, including NGOs, national, regional and local authorities.  The networks which will be set up will ensure that information and best practice can be shared and they will, in particular, be producing a common framework for analysing violence, its causes and all its consequences, measuring the real impact of violence within Europe on its victims and on society and assessing the effectiveness of current measures and practices to prevent and detect violence.  In addition, the new programme will continue the campaign to raise awareness particularly amongst school children throughout the European Union.

But legislation alone will not change the imbalance of the power between women and men.  Much more work is needed to educate men about the destructive impact of violence against women.  Male leaders in politics, business and the media must take the lead in demanding a change in attitudes.  If men do not take the lead in this, change will not happen.  It is men who beat their wives and it is men who teach boys about women, and attitudes are formed at a young age.  There must be a strategy to foster behaviour that is not discriminatory and not threatening.  Men must say no to violence.

One initiative taken by the Women's Rights and Equal Opportunities Committee has been the white ribbon campaign.  We have called for November 25th - the United Nations Day Against Violence Against Women - to be adopted by the European Union.  On this date last year we sent a letter to every male member of the European Parliament and every male employee in the European institutions with a white ribbon, asking them to wear them on that date to demonstrate, as men, their commitment never to use, to condone or to turn a blind eye to violence against women.  We had a very good response and I believe this kind of awareness raising too is important in including men in the struggle and ensuring that there are good role models for men.

We have come a long way, but there is still much further to go.  On the positive side, there is a growing awareness of and willingness to confront the issue of domestic violence.  The focus of blame is moving away from the victim and on to the perpetrator.  There is recognition that protection for victims and witnesses must be improved and that immigration women are particularly vulnerable.

The European Women's Lobby has set up a research and policy centre on violence against women and plays a vital co-ordinating role with voluntary organisations.  In Austria and Finland there is legal provision to remove abusers from the home.  In Sweden domestic violence is a serious criminal offence.

A survey carried out in 1999 into the attitudes of Europeans to domestic violence gives further encouragement to show that opinions are moving in the right direction.  For example, just under half of the respondents said that they thought that domestic violence was "fairly common" in their country.  94% thought that domestic violence was acceptable in all circumstances and 95% believed that a man who beats his partner should be sentenced in a criminal court.  These findings show that awareness raising campaigns work to a certain extent.  On the other hand, there was another - very alarming statistic.  When asked what the cause of domestic violence against women was, 96% said alcoholism; 94% said drugs; 78% said unemployment; 75% said poverty - and there were a number of other factors noted.  But 46% - albeit the lowest figure said that it was due to the provocative behaviour of the women themselves.

The valuable work that is being done on the European level in terms of the new five-year Strategy on Gender Equality is a step forward.  We have to change gender roles and stereotypes.  It will introduce specific action to change behaviour, attitudes and values. Which define and influence gender roles in society through education, training, the arts, culture and science.  Its aim is to end the negative and stereotyped images of women and emphasise the importance of equality to a modern democratic society.  Together with the measures to achieve equality in economic life, in politics, in social and civil life, this can all contribute positively to the campaign to stop violence against women - not least by getting more women in positions of influence and decision making.

So we can look to future presidencies of the European Union and to the European Parliament to ensure that the conferences and events continue, that the programmes and funding continue, and that perhaps above all there is co-ordination of efforts and exchange of good practise.  After all, it is a tribute to the many women's organisations which have been campaigning for many years that this issue is now being discussed at all levels of government.  Excellent initiatives have been taken so far, but to return to the survey I mentioned earlier, 79% of people questioned did not even know that the European Union was involved at all in combating violence against women.  So now we must ensure that we don't just keep adding to the list of good projects and then sit back and allow governments to ignore the commitments they have made.  We must work together to ensure that the work already being done is effective and will make a real difference to the lives of the hundreds of thousands of women and children whose most basic human rights are being violated every day.

Jill Evans MEP, plaid Cymru The Party of Wales 
Enough is enough- Counting the cost of domestic violence

As International Day Against Domestic Violence Against Women coincides with our party s National Council, Jill Evans MEP - who is a Vice-Chair of the European Parliament s Women s Rights and Equal Opportunities Committee - intends to join with our party president and invite the male delegates present (of which there should be 200+) to ware the white ribbons. The aim is to secure publicity in the Welsh press to raise awareness of the domestic violence issue.

November 2000
Jillian Evans [jievans(AT)europarl.eu.int]