Domestic violence against women is a rising phenomenon that knows no geographical boundary, age limit or colour bar, and affects every type of family relationship and social class. Statistics show that 12% to 15% of women in Europe face violence in the home every day. It is one of the most widespread violations of human rights worldwide, and must be combated.
Since the 1990s, the Council of Europe has actively promoted the protection of women and girls from gender-based violence, namely by adopting Recommendation (2002) 5 on the protection of women against violence and by running a Europe-wide campaign on violence against women, including domestic violence in 2006-2008.
The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence is the most far-reaching international treaty to tackle this serious violation of human rights. It aims at zero tolerance for such violence and is a major step forward in making Europe and beyond a safer place.
Preventing violence, protecting its victims and prosecuting the perpetrators are the cornerstones of the convention. It also seeks to change the hearts and minds of individuals by calling on all members of society, in particular men and boys, to change attitudes. In essence, it is a renewed call for greater equality between women and men, because violence against women is deeply rooted in the inequality between women and men in society and is perpetuated by a culture of tolerance and denial.
Representatives from member states governments, parliaments and local authorities, judiciary and law enforcement, regional and international organisations, notably the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS), the Nordic Council, UN Women, EU and the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), met on 17 and 18 January in Helsinki, for the Regional Conference on the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
Every day in Europe, women fall victim of violence. They are stalked, harassed, raped, mutilated, forced by their family to enter into a marriage, sterilised against their will or psychologically and physically abused in the “safety” of their own homes. The examples of violence against women are endless, its victims countless. The Council of Europe Convention, which opened for signature on 11 May 2011, is the first legally-binding instrument in Europe on this topic and in terms of scope. It is the most far-reaching international treaty in this field.
The Helsinki Conference placed particular emphasis on the added value of the Convention, the link between achieving gender equality and combating violence against women, as well as recognising violence against women as a human rights violation.