The right to a good morning

For most of us a typical day includes getting up in the morning, going to work, interacting with colleagues and family members, and socializing with friends.

But for one in five European women, a typical day involves verbal and physical assault, violence, harassment or other abusive behaviour.

Today doesn’t have to be another day.

According to the EU definition domestic violence is “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.

The Council of Europe has estimated that 45% of European women suffer some kind of violence at least once in their lifetime, and between 6% and 10% of women suffer domestic violence in a given year.

At a global level, the UN estimates that one in three women is subjected to violence from a domestic partner in the course of her life, and that half of all women murdered are killed by their current or former husbands.

Other than the cost in human life and dignity, domestic violence also comes with an economic price for our society. Research carried out in 2010 under the Daphne Programme, estimated that the direct costs of domestic violence stand at €16 billion annually for EU member states. If one takes into consideration the indirect effects on the employment sector, housing and other aspects of life, this figure could be much higher.

In recent years the EU made combating domestic violence a high priority by developing policies and extending funding to eradicate violence against women and girls in Europe at all levels.

The Council of Europe has gone one step further by instituting the first legally-binding, far reaching international treaty to tackle violence against women.

The Convention on prevention and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, makes states legally responsible for preventing violence, providing support to victims and prosecuting perpetrators.

The Convention was adopted by the Council of Europe on 7 April 2011 and became open to signatures on 11 May, 2011. That same day 13 European member countries added their signature to the Convention.

In order to come into force the convention requires the ratification of ten states, eight of which must be Council of Europe members. While Italy became, on 27 September 2012, the 23rd member state of the Council of Europe to sign the Istanbul Convention, so far only Turkey ratified the Convention.

I don’t understand why other European countries are not following Turkey’s steps?

There are many compelling reasons to sign and ratify the convention. The most obvious one is helping to save the lives of many women who are at serious risk of being abused and killed. Other reasons concern the need to build a healthier society based on equality and tolerance.

On the eve of 25 November, the UN international day to eliminate violence against women, I wish to remind you all that it is our responsibility to take a public and political stand against all forms of violence.

Each and every one of us has a key role to play in raising awareness and developing standards of action to tackle this huge problem. For example, citizens can pressure their local politicians and national government to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention. MEPs can support the notion by making similar appeals. Only by working together on the local, national and European level, can we see an improvement in the situation of women and girls who suffer from acts of violence, including physical and verbal aggression.

Greeting from the European Parliament,

Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg

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This post has been published as an op-ed in New Europe. The article is available on their website in the following link: http://www.neurope.eu/blog/right-good-morning

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