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EU Expert Meeting on Violence Against Women

Jyväskylä, 9 November 1999
Press release 44/99eng   
Ministry of Social Affairs and Health Finland


 According to a United Nations’ report, the violence perpetrated by men on women is the biggest threat to  women’s health all over the world. In Sweden a man batters a woman every twentieth minute and  according to the National Swedish Council for Crime Prevention once every tenth day a man kills a woman  with whom he has a close relationship. In Finland the police receives annually 14,500 alarms concerning  domestic violence. Nowhere near all assaults and batteries come to the knowledge of the police. Women’s  rights were recognised for the first time as human rights at the Human Rights Conference of the United  Nations in Vienna 1993.

 The Meeting in Jyväskylä

 The ongoing meeting in Jyväskylä is focusing on four main themes. First, violence against women is dealt  with from the point of view of criminal law, reviewing how effectively the already existing laws that enable  interfering in violence against women are applied in each country.

 The second theme is standards for shelters for battered women and children, which is dealt with in order to  introduce good practices for treating the victims of violence in all countries. The meeting aims at bringing  about uniform guidelines that could be approved at the meeting in Portugal next March.

 The third theme to be discussed is models of treatment for men using violence against women and children,  and the forth theme is research on sensitive and difficult areas such as sexual violence, prostitution, men  with violent behaviour, and social and emotional obstacles to this research.

 Eva Biaudet, Minister of Health and Social Services, Finland

 Minister Biaudet emphasised in her address the protection of children living in families where violence  occurs. She stated that the attitude education must be started at an early age, and mentioned as some  examples the related programmes introduced in Finland in schools, confirmation classes and in the military  service. She took up prostitution and trafficking in women as particularly cruel forms of violence against  women, and stated that when researching and combating these phenomena attention is almost solely paid to  the sellers of sex. However, the social and cultural structures of sex trade should be changed and attention  should be paid to customers, procurers and other persons benefiting from sex trade. Preventive measures  and control should be directed at this ”invisible” side of the sex industry.

 Maj Britt Theorin, Member of European Parliament, Chairperson of the Committee on Women’s  Rights and Equal Opportunities of the European Parliament

 What would happen if newspapers would some morning tell about a new disease that would in one year  affect about a fifth of the EU population? The disease would soon become one of the leading causes of  hospitalisation, and would cause prolonged human suffering, lead to chronic disability and sometimes to  death. No government that would fail to allocate sufficient funds and introduce efficient programmes to stop  the disease would become reelected. However, as regards the violence against women, so is the case, said  Maj Britt Theorin is her address.

 When seeking reasons for the indifference of governments, Theorin stated that violence against women still  remains concealed. There are no uniform definitions for it, which constitutes an obstacle to carrying out  efficient research and compiling statistics on it. The EU Committee on Women’s Rights and Equal  Opportunities is conducting a study to define the general indicators for violence against women with a view  to using them as a basis for compiling systematic statistics on the issue within the EU. Similar indicators  must be developed for other areas as well, such as for trafficking in women and girls.

 Theorin also saw some steps forward. The International Criminal Court established this year has for the  first time defined rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution and forced pregnancy as war crimes and  crimes against human rights. At the same time, there are many countries where rape within marriage is not  considered a crime and the penalty for drug smuggling is much more severe than that for trafficking in  women.

 Theorin further said that in violence against women it is question of structural factors and influencing the  attitudes.

 Angela Beausang, Chairwoman of the National Organisation of Battered Women in Sweden  (ROKS)

 In her address Angela Beausang drew attention to the vulnerable position of young girls and said that there  are 15 shelters for battered girls in Sweden. She is especially proud of the law prohibiting purchase of sex  in Sweden. At the same time she criticised e.g. the Netherlands for legalising brothels and said that actions  to stop trafficking in women are of no use if Member States at the same time accept prostitution in their  own countries.

 Beausang also criticised the new Swedish law on custody, that makes it possible for a court of law to order  that the parents of a child shall have joint custody, although one of the parents objects to that. In her view,  the law places too much emphasis on the rights of the father even when he has behaved violently. She said  that the Swedish feminist shelter movement is worried about the position of women and children after the  entry into force of the law.

 Michael Kaufman, International Director of the White Ribbon Campaign (a campaign to help  violent men)

 Dr Kaufman presented ”the Seven P’s of Men’s Violence”. The first P is Patriarchal Power, the power  linked to culture and social structures, in which violence is not directed at women only but at other men as  well, and finally at the man himself. The second P: the Sense of Entitlement to Privilege, is a man’s belief in  that he has a privilege to certain things, e.g. sex, also without a woman’s consent. The third P: Permission,  in a way gives a man a right to violence. This appears e.g. in manners, interpretation and enforcement of the  law, and in some religious teachings, and is often emphasised in sports, films, literature and wars. The fourth  P: the Paradox of Men’s Power, shows that men have constructed for themselves a social and individual  right that in fact frightens them, isolates them from the others and brings pain to the man himself. The fear of  failure increases the use of power, and violence becomes a necessity The fifth P: the Psychic Armour of  Manhood, and the sixth P: the Psychic Pressure Cooker, are linked with the previous P. Men have  constructed for themselves an armour through which they are unable to see. A man cannot feel empathy  and he has a markedly ”manful” way of behaviour. Boys are taught that ”men do not cry”. The seventh P:  Past Experiences, indicates that childhood experiences together with later factors contribute to violent  behaviour.

 Kaufman says that when these factors affecting a man’s behaviour are known, it is possible is help a violent  man. Although we must not accept what these men do, the help to break the circle of violent behaviour  must however be based on friendship, love and respect.