Much has been said on domestic violence and many actions were taken to tackle this disturbing disease. However, these efforts are not sufficient as women all over the world continue to suffer daily from acts of harassment, violence and rape.
Many women are too afraid to seek help, often paying for their silence with their lives.
Domestic violence is another form of violence that has become far too common in our society.
While existing legislation is often insufficiently enforced, services for victims remain scarce or inadequately funded, and available support differs from one country to another, a harmonized and comprehensive response to violence against women and domestic violence is needed.
In this context I can report of good news. We actually do have an available instrument that contains a set of legally-binding standards to raise the level of protection, prevention and prosecution. This instrument is known as the Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, or in short, the Istanbul Convention.
The Convention recognizes violence against women as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination. This means that states are held responsible if they do not respond adequately to such violence.
It goes another step further by introducing a set of criminal offences such as female genital mutilation (FGM), forced marriage, stalking, forced abortion and forced sterilisation.
Furthermore, the Convention calls for the involvement of all relevant state agencies and services so that violence against women and domestic violence are tackled in a coordinated way.
While this instrument could potentially change for the better the life of many women in Europe and beyond, to enter into force, the Convention requires ten countries, eight of which must be Council of Europe Members, to ratify the Convention.
Since it was opened for signatures, on May 2011, 29 countries have signed it. Out of this number of signatures, only Turkey, Albania and Portugal ratified the Convention.
There are many reasons to ratify the Treaty. The most compelling one is that it can help to save the lives of many women who are at risk of violence.
Ratifying the Convention also comes with an economic reward. An overview of studies estimate that the price of domestic violence stands at €16 billion annually for EU member states. Taking into account indirect effects on the employment sector, housing and other aspects of life, this figure could be much higher.
Reminding national and European political leaders of the value of using the Istanbul Convention is of the highest importance, and in this respect – each and every one of us has a role to play.
Citizens can pressure local politicians and national government to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention. We, MEPs, can support this action by making similar appeals at the EU as a whole.
Discussing the matter is another way to raising awareness.
Earlier today (10/4/13) I spoke at a hearing organized by my group, the S&D, in the European Parliament on the Istanbul Convention. The hearing was taken place upon my initiative after I participated in a meeting several months ago, in Strasbourg, which was organized by the Council of Europe.
Maintaining momentum to these kind of debates is important for continue pressuring governments to sign and ratify the Convention.
At this point I will remind you that without political will and commitment, even the best causes are lost. Therefore we must continue our efforts to convince Parliaments and Governments of the need to sign, ratify and implement the convention.
Greetings from the European Parliament,
Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg
For more information about the Istanbul convention see the following link:
Pictures from the S&D Hearing – Convention on Violence against Women