COE: Policies for Combating 
Violence Against Women 

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COE: Policies for Combating 
Violence Against Women 

 

DECLARATION ON POLICIES
FOR COMBATING VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
IN A DEMOCRATIC EUROPE

Council of Europe

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1. The Ministers of the States participating in the 3rd European Ministerial Conference on equality between women and men (Rome, 21-22 October 1993);

2. Recalling that the principles of pluralist democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights - which are the guiding principles of the Council of Europe - constitute the basis for their co-operation;

3. Recalling the commitments entered into by the member States of the Council of Europe under the European Convention on Human Rights and in the Declaration on equality of women and men of 16 November 1988;

4. Affirming that the effective enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms by women on an equal footing with men is an essential principle of democratic societies;

5. Taking into consideration physical, sexual and psychological violence carried out by men against young or adult women, in the family, at the place of work, or in society, inter alia, battering, genital and sexual mutilation, incest, sexual harassment, sexual abuse, traffic in women and rape;

6. Affirming that such violence against women constitutes an infringement of the right to life, security, liberty, dignity, and integrity of the victim and, consequently, a hindrance to the functioning of a democratic society, based on the rule of law;

7. Denouncing the practice of rape during armed conflicts, in particular when rape is used as a strategy of warfare, as a particularly serious violation of human rights and a grave breach of international humanitarian law;

8. Recalling in this context the United Nations Programme for the prevention of crime and penal justice, the Nairobi forward-looking strategies for the advancement of women and the United Nations' Draft Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women;

9. Recalling also the Document of the Moscow meeting of the Conference on the human dimension of the CSCE (1991); the Final Solemn Declaration of the first Ministerial Conference on physical and sexual violence towards women (Brussels, March 1991); the Resolutions of the European Parliament on violence towards women (1986) and of the Council of the European Communities concerning the protection of the dignity of women and men at work (1990); the Recommendation and code of practice of the Commission of the European Communities on the protection of the dignity of women and men at work (1991); as well as the Recommendations of the Council of Europe on violence in the family (1985 and 1990) and on the principles relating to the distribution of videocassettes with a violent, brutal and pornographic content (1989);

10. Noting with grave concern that violence towards women is a universal phenomenon which is present in all social strata and societies, independent of their level of development, political stability, culture or religion, the scale of which is only now becoming visible;

11. Noting, in this context, the emergence of European networks for traffic in women;

12. Stressing that such violence, because of its impact not only on the victims, but also on society as a whole, constitutes a major political issue for European countries;

13. Emphasising that violence against women, including the refusal of the right to free choice of motherhood, can be seen as a means of controlling women, originating from the unequal power relationship still prevailing between men and women, and is therefore an obstacle to the achievement of genuine equality between women and men;

14. Considering in this respect that any policy to combat violence against women must therefore constitute an essential element of policies on equality and education in human rights, focusing on attitudes, behaviour and personal responsibility;

15. Highlighting the responsibility of the media in contemporary society vis-a-vis violence directed towards women, as vectors and creators of social concepts, and stressing the necessary balance which should prevail in a democratic society between freedom of expression and respect for fundamental human rights;

16. Stressing in particular the responsibility of the media with regard to the production, reproduction and distribution of violent, brutal or pornographic products;

17. Underlining in this context the positive function the media can assume in refraining from exploitative and sensational media coverage, in bringing to light the problem of violence and the use of rape against women in day to day life or in situations of conflict or tension;

18. Noting that the responsibility of States is engaged with regard to acts of violence carried out by public officials and that it may also be engaged with regard to private acts of violence if the State does not take action with sufficient diligence to prevent the violation of rights or investigate acts of violence, to sanction them and provide support for the victims;

19. Recognising the important role to be played by the women's movement, NGOs and Governments in placing the problem of violence against women on the political agenda;

20. Affirming that the implementation of a comprehensive concerted Plan of Action and the intensification of international co-operation to combat violence against women are a necessary task of the Council of Europe, in order to assume fully its specific mission regarding the protection and promotion of human rights;

21. Solemnly CONDEMN violence against women, which constitutes a violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms;

22. DECIDE TO COMBAT violence against women - wherever it occurs, in the family, at the place of work, or in society, and irrespective of whether or not it is perpetrated or tolerated by public officials - by the urgent implementation of a concerted Plan of Action using political, judicial, administrative, educational, cultural and other means;

23. AGREE that the strategies to be used in this Plan of Action must be developed in close synergy with policies aimed at establishing genuine equality between women and men;

24. AGREE furthermore that this Plan of Action shall include a range of concerted measures concerning research, prevention, education, protection against institutionalised or domestic violence, assistance and support for victims, repressive measures, the instigation of criminal proceedings, as well as the criminalisation of acts of violence committed within marriage, an indicative list of which is appended to this Declaration;

25. DECIDE, in implementing this Plan, to accord particular attention to those women who are the most defenceless in the face of violence;

26. AFFIRM the importance of international co-operation, particularly in the compilation of statistics, the exchange of data and the comparison of experiences;

27. DECIDE to intensify their co-operation within the Council of Europe and in other international fora;

28. RECOMMEND the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to take all necessary measures for the achievement of the objectives set out in this Declaration, in particular:

  • a) the elaboration of a possible Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights embodying the fundamental right of women and men to equality;

  • b) the elaboration and implementation of a concerted Plan of Action to combat violence against women, including the elaboration of appropriate legal instruments;

  • c) the encouragement of the member States to take the necessary steps fully to implement the human rights as set forth in the relevant international instruments, so that all forms of violence against women are condemned and sanctioned;

  • d) to support the action of non-governmental organisations working towards the same goals;

  • e) the promotion of self-regulation within the media;

  • f) the reinforcement of the equality policy-making in the framework of the Council of Europe.

  • Appendix

    Elements for intervention strategies to be included in a Plan of Action to combat violence against women

    I. RESEARCH AND EVALUATION

    a) Encouragement and support for research into the phenomenon (particularly the compilation of reliable and up-to-date statistics and data on the scale of the phenomenon, the nature, forms, seriousness and consequences of violence against women, the perpetrators and the phenomenon itself);

    b) Appraisal, at a national and European level (multilateral evaluation survey) of the legislation in force, programmes carried out, and measures taken to eliminate violence against women;

    c) Action to promote dialogue between the researchers and organisations concerned in the various countries and to facilitate the dissemination of the results of the research.

    II. LEGISLATIVE, JUDICIAL AND POLICE ASPECTS

    a) Criminal, public and private law sanctions for the various forms of violence against women considered as offences. Violence against women within the family (including rape within marriage) must be dealt with as severely as violence outside the family;

    b) Recognition in national legislation of the psychological and social needs of the victim, and the study of the most effective measures of redress, in particular alternatives to prosecution and imprisonment for the authors of violence;

    c) Continual up-dating of national legislation in line with stricter norms adopted at an international level;

    d) Possibility of free legal aid for the victim;

    e) Adequate treatment of cases of violence against women by the police (reception by women police officers) and assistance for the victims : compulsory registration of the complaint, positive attitude towards the victim, giving the victims information on their rights and the availability of aid; the possibility of rapid and effective intervention (e.g. removing the perpetrator of the violence from the marital home);

    f) Criminal procedure which guarantees the protection of the victim's dignity and privacy;

    g) Development of appropriate domestic legal sanctions and intensification of international co-operation between police and judicial authorities with a view to prosecuting and dismantling transnational networks of traffic in women.

    III. PREVENTION AND EDUCATION

    a) Measures to facilitate changing the socio-cultural attitudes and behaviour of men and women and promote awareness of the problems related to violence against women;

    b) Public information and awareness campaigns to be carried out by the authorities to gain public backing for measures to combat the phenomenon;

    c) Education of young people, adults and the personnel of the public services concerned with the problem of violence against women;

    d) Awareness raising among men to encourage them to analyse and dismantle the mechanisms of violence with a view to finding alternative modes of behaviour, particularly in situations of conflict;

    e) Awareness raising among women to report acts of violence of which they are victims, so that action can be taken;

    f) Training of those who come across the problem of violence against women in the course of their work (civil servants responsible for the application of policy on the matter, doctors, social workers, the police) in methods of detecting cases and preventing repetition;

    g) Making the media aware of the role that they can play in prevention (promotion of a positive image of women) and their responsibility in the perpetuation of patterns which generate violence. Encouragement of the establishment of codes of professional conduct;

    h) Measures to reinforce public safety, particularly in the context of town planning (installation of telephone boxes, lighting etc);

    i) Devising and implementing policies and practices in the public sector, to serve as examples for the private sector, to prevent, to stop and punish violence in the workplace;

    j) Parental education programmes as a means of preventing violence;

    k) Family mediation as a means of preventing violence.

    IV. ASSISTANCE

    a) Appropriate attention and social, economic and psychological assistance from the authorities (including local authorities) for women who have been subjected to violence;

    b) Co-operation and coordination of the various bodies involved in assistance (judicial authorities, professionals in the medical and social services, police force, support organisations) in order to provide an appropriate response to the varied needs of the victims;

    c) Material support and support under whatever other form from the authorities for the creation and operation of emergency aid services (shelters for battered women, support groups) and for voluntary organisations which help the victims and the perpetrators of violence.

    RESOLUTION

    ON RAPE AND THE SEXUAL ABUSE OF WOMEN

    1. The Ministers of the States participating in the 3rd European Ministerial Conference on Equality between Women and Men, held in Rome on 21-22 October 1993;

    2. Considering that rape and sexual abuse are still today, as in the past, used by men to impose their power and authority over women, and as an instrument of intimidation;

    3. Recalling and endorsing the recent declarations and statements of the international community condemning the systematic use of rape of women within the context of a strategy of warfare and ethnic cleansing;

    4. Considering that such declarations and statements have contributed towards alerting public opinion to these particularly serious violations of human rights;

    5. Believing it is equally important to alert public opinion to the numerous and multifarious individual acts of rape and sexual abuse occurring within society;

    6. Noting that, under exceptional conditions, women can be particularly vulnerable, such as in the case of armed conflicts, situations resulting from political and economic deterioration (refugees, migrants, displaced persons, etc) or when they are deprived of their liberty;

    7. Drawing attention to the scale and number of individual acts of rape and sexual abuse of women both within and outside the family;

    8. Considering it essential to lift the silence which surrounds such acts;

    I. AFFIRM that rape and the sexual abuse of women:

    a) are always an infringement of the dignity, liberty and integrity of women, having serious social, psychological and other consequences;

    b) are therefore serious violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and, as such, should be sanctioned by national and international penal tribunals;

    c) when resulting from the abuse of discretionary power by public officials, engage the responsibility of States under international human rights instruments;

    II. APPEAL to participating States to take steps of a preventive nature to eradicate rape and the sexual abuse of women, to encourage actively women to report cases of rape and sexual abuse and to take vigorous action so that such acts are effectively sanctioned and support is provided for the victims;

    III. RECOMMEND that members of national and international judicial bodies called on to handle cases of rape and sexual abuse are given specific training and that such bodies should comprise an appropriate number of women;

    IV. AGREE to intensify their co-operation to that end both within the Council of Europe and other European and international fora.

    STATEMENT

    ON THE 4TH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN

    (BEIJING, 4-15 SEPTEMBER 1995)

    The Ministers of States participating in the 3rd European Ministerial Conference on equality between Women and Men, being held in Rome, on 21 and 22 October 1993;

    Noting the forthcoming United Nation's 4th World Conference on Women, to be held in Beijing in September 1995;

    Noting that the preparatory meeting to the 4th World Conference for the European region, to be organised by the European Economic Commission for Europe of the United Nations, will focus on the main themes of the World Conference: "Actions for Equality, Development and Peace";

    Noting that other European meetings in anticipation of the Conference, in particular those of the European Community and the Nordic Council of Ministers will focus principally on issues related to the role of women in the economy and their participation in the labour market;

    Emphasising the specific approach of the Council of Europe to the question of equality, based on the idea that equality between women and men is principally a human rights issue and that equality is a requirement for democracy;

    Stressing the pioneering work of the Council of Europe in this field and the need to ensure that the human rights dimension of equality between women and men is injected into the work of the World Conference and the final documents thereof;

  • 1. Urge the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to take the necessary steps to ensure that the Council of Europe brings a major contribution to the 4th World Conference, and to that end:

  • 2. Invite the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to convene a conference in anticipation to the 4th World Conference, focusing on the human rights dimension of equality as well as the question of equality and democracy which are also particularly relevant in the countries in transition in Europe;

  • 3. Recommend that this Conference should promote practical and action-oriented strategies to be implemented;

  • 4. Recommend that the Parliamentary Assembly and the Standing Conference of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and non governmental organisations be associated with the Council of Europe's Conference;

  • 5. Agree that all relevant non governmental organisations should be involved in the preparation and proceedings of the 4th World Conference.

  • STATEMENT ON VIOLATIONS OF WOMEN'S RIGHTS ON TERRITORIES OF FORMER YUGOSLAVIA

    The Ministers of States participating in the 3rd European Ministerial Conference on Equality between Women and Men, being held in Rome, on 21 and 22 October 1993;

    Recalling that, while this Conference is being conducted, a tragic drama is being enacted in territories of former Yugoslavia, where a bloody conflict has led to the annihilation of the values and principles underpinning civil society;

    Stressing that women are frequently the first victims of the grave violations of human rights perpetrated in this barbaric conflict;

    Emphasising the terrible physical and psychological privations and suffering - due, notably to enforced displacements of the population and internment in camps - which the conflict has engendered for the whole population, in particular women and children;

    Recalling with shame and horror that the rape of women is being used systematically by the belligerents on territories of former Yugoslavia, particularly in Bosnia Herzegovina, as a strategy of warfare and ethnic cleansing, and that enforced procreation frequently ensues;

    Stressing that such acts constitute the negation of the human being, are a particularly grave violation of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms, are a war crime and should be considered as constituting a crime against humanity;

    Recalling and endorsing the recent declarations, recommendations and statements of the Committee of Ministers, of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the international community, condemning such acts;

    Being unable to remain silent in the face of such abhorrent violations of women's rights;

  • 1. Vigourously condemn all violations of Human Rights in territories of former Yugoslavia;

  • 2. Condemn, in particular, the physical and psychological privations and exactions of which women are victims;

  • 3. Condemn categorically the systematic use of rape of women and enforced procreation in the context of a strategy of warfare and ethnic cleansing as constituting one of the most vile crimes against humanity and the annihilation of the dignity of the human being, be it the victim or the child forceably procreated;

  • 4. Agree to co-ordinate their efforts with a view to providing the appropriate moral and material assistance to the victims of these violations of Human Rights;

  • 5. Urge that these atrocities cease immediately and that their instigators and perpetrators are prosecuted by an appropriate national or international penal tribunal without delay.

  • RESOLUTION EXPRESSING APPRECIATION TO THE HOST AUTHORITIES

    The Ministers participating in the 3rd European Ministerial Conference on Equality between Women and Men, held in Rome on 21-22 October 1993;

    Express their warmest thanks to the Government of Italy for the excellent organisation of this Conference in Rome and for its kind hospitality;

    Emphasising the importance of holding regular meetings at Ministerial level to exchange views on developments in the complex area of equality between women and men and to work out any concerted measures which changes may require;

    Having learnt with pleasure of the invitation by the Government of Turkey to hold the 4th European Ministerial Conference on Equality between Women and Men in 1996 or 1997,

    Gratefully accept this invitation.

     


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