Combat Violence against Women
Violence against women continues to be a major problem in Europe – and its extent is appalling. In 2014, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights determined in a Europe-wide survey, that one in three women has experienced some kind of physical and/or sexualised violence since the age of 15. This added up to about 62 million women in Europe. Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union, is currently coordinating an EU-wide survey on violence against women and other forms of inter-personal violence. Recent data are expected at the end of 2023.
The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention, IC) is, at this time, the most far-reaching instrument for preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence that is legally binding at the international level. The Convention was signed in Istanbul in 2011 and entered into force in 2014. By now, 37 countries have ratified the agreement (Status: January 2023).
The Istanbul Convention defines violence against women as a human rights violation. It is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between men and women and should hence be viewed as a consequence of structural discrimination. The Convention covers all forms of violence.
The Istanbul Convention introduces a holistic approach that aims to improve the protection of women in Europe against gender-based violence and to create Europe-wide minimum standards. Specifically, the Convention sets out obligations for a coordinated approach to prevent violence, protect victims, prosecute perpetrators, and collect data.
In order to supervise the implementation of the obligations in the States Parties, the Istanbul Convention provides for a comprehensive monitoring procedure, which is accompanied by an independent group of 15 experts (Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, GREVIO).
Istanbul Convention - Denmark, Finland and Austria in comparison
In 2019/20, the Observatory focused its research on the subject of violence against women, specifically the implementation of the Istanbul Convention to protect and support women affected by violence.
Individuals affected by violence have the right to be protected by the state. Shelters provide legal and psychosocial support and advice. The facilities work together with authorities, courts and family assistance. In all three countries examined, shelters are open to people in acute emergencies.
Our working paper provides detailed insights into specialised support systems in three European countries. In a comparative approach, we examine the implementation of the Istanbul Convention in Denmark, Finland and Austria with regards to the implementation of Article 22 (specialist support services), 23 (shelters) and 25 (support for victims of sexual violence).
In comparison, what are the similarities and differences?
Denmark signed the Istanbul Convention in 2013 and then ratified it on 23 April 2014. The Convention entered into force on 1 August of the same year with the “first wave” of States Parties. GREVIO conducted its first audit from September 2016 to November 2017.
The national co-ordinating body as defined by the Istanbul Convention is an interministerial working group, which directed government measures in the area of violence against women even before the Istanbul Convention entered into force. It is run by the Department of Gender Equality (Ligestillingsafdelingen) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Udenrigsministeriet).
FinlandFinland signed the Istanbul Convention immediately after it was passed in 2011 and ratified it on 17 April 2015. The Istanbul Convention entered into force in Finland on 1 August 2015. There was an Action Plan for the Istanbul Convention covering 2018 to 2021, which was preceded by a 2011 action plan for reducing violence against women. GREVIO first evaluated the implementation of the Convention from November 2017 to September 2019.
The Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (Sosiaali- ja terveysministeriö) and the independent National Institute for Health and Welfare (Terveyden ja hyvinvoinnin laitos) are assigned a key role in designing and implementing gender equality policy. Both bodies are also strongly involved in implementing the Istanbul Convention measures examined in this working paper.
A Committee for Implementing the Istanbul Convention (NAPE) has also been set up within the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health as the national co-ordinating body since the beginning of 2017.
Austria participated actively in the two-year negotiations of the treaty text for the Istanbul Convention and was a cosignatory in 2011. It was also one of the first states to ratify it, namely on 14 November 2013. An inter-ministerial working group “Protecting women against violence” was set up in 2013 during the ratification process. The Istanbul Convention entered into force in Austria on 1 August 2014.
The first audit took place in Austria from March 2016 to January 2018. It was accompanied at the national level by the National Coordination Office “Violence against Women”, which was established in 2015.
In 1997, Austria became the first European country to pass an Act on Protection Against Violence. The provisions on evictions, barring orders and restraining orders to protect against violence are exemplary in Europe and bolster Austria’s leading position in protecting women against violence.
Digital Violence - How the violence continues online
Digital media has added a new dimension to violence against women. On the one hand, existing forms of violence against women find their digital equivalent. On the other hand, the anonymity and reach of the internet, as well as new contact possibilities via social media, allow new forms of violence to emerge.
In its work, the Observatory looks at European and national approaches to dealing with digital violence against women: How do the European Union and its member states approach this phenomenon of gender-related digital violence and its effects? Which national approaches and initiatives already exist?