[JURIST] The Council of Europe (COE) [official website] on Wednesday launched the first international convention to combat violence against women [text]. The group announced [press release] that the “new landmark treaty of the Council of Europe opens the path for creating a legal framework at pan-European level to protect women against all forms of violence, and prevent, prosecute and eliminate violence against women and domestic violence.” In response to a statistic that at least 15 percent of women [BBC article] have been victims of domestic violence, the treaty targets crimes including rape, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, forced abortion and forced sterilization. The treaty also recognizes:
the realization of de jure and de facto equality between women and men is a key element in the prevention of violence against women; … that violence against women is a manifestation of historically unequal power relations between women and men, which have led to domination over, and discrimination against, women by men and to the prevention of the full advancement of women; … the structural nature of violence against women as gender-based violence, and that violence against women is one of the crucial social mechanisms by which women are forced into a subordinate position compared with men; … ongoing human rights violations during armed conflicts that affect the civilian population, especially women in the form of widespread or systematic rape and sexual violence and the potential for increased gender-based violence both during and after conflicts; … that women and girls are exposed to a higher risk of gender-based violence than men; … that domestic violence affects women disproportionately, and that men may also be victims of domestic violence; [and] … that children are victims of domestic violence, including as witnesses of violence in the family.
Thirteen countries signed the treaty during the 121st session held in Istanbul, including France, Germany and Spain.
Domestic violence continues to be a global problem. A 2010 Human Rights Watch report condemned [JURIST report] a United Arabic Emirates practice of a “husband[‘s] right to discipline his wife.” The report noted that women in these countries still face many obstacles in achieving equality, and, despite the progress, women in the region still have little recourse for domestic violence and face discrimination in employment, education and politics. In 2009, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the Turkish government is responsible for the death of a woman at the hands of her ex-husband because it failed to investigate complaints. A few months earlier, the India Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) [official website] announced that it would review [JURIST report] the country’s controversial anti-dowry act [BBC backgrounder] because increasing numbers of Indian women had issued complaints about misuse. Despite legislation controlling the cultural and religious practice, India’s dowry system continues illegally, leaving many women subject to abuse without enforcement of legal protections from so-called “dowry deaths”. In 2008, Pakistan [JURIST report] instituted the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, 2008 [text, PDF], moving a step closer to outlawing domestic violence in the country by protecting women, children and domestic employees from mental, physical, and sexual abuse. In 2006, the COE released a report criticizing [JURIST report] France’s human rights record and identifying impunity for domestic violence as a shortcoming in the French judicial system.