This is the keynote address given by Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights at the launching conference on the Council of Europe Campaign to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence. Delivered in Madrid on 27 November 2006.
MADRID -- It has to be said at the outset that violence against women is a manifestation of unequal status between men and women in society. Therefore, violence against women must be addressed in the context of seeking to end all forms of discrimination, to advance gender equality and to empower women.
Women are still grossly underrepresented in almost all political assemblies and decision making bodies at all levels in Europe – also within the Council of Europe. This in turn is reflected in the priorities selected and, very importantly, on budgets and decisions on funding.
In spite of the numerous women’s rights conferences, agreed norms against discrimination and political pledges about gender equity, the gap between rhetoric and the daily reality remains. This is the main message in the UN Study on Violence Against Women which was published just a few days ago.
The UN Study points out that though strong laws have been adopted in many countries, most national-level responses have been inadequate and have not eradicated the impunity perpetrators too often enjoy.
The Study confirms previous reports indicatng that the level of violence against women, including domestic violence, remains very high. Though precise data are lacking, we know that such abuses are widespread and a serious problem also across Europe – affecting the lives of a large number of women, as well as their children.
We also know that where combating violence against women indeed has been made a priority by the government, we have seen tangible improvements in a relatively short time. The host country of this conference has been one of those that have taken the issue very seriously and progress is being made. This is largely thanks to the efforts of the women’s moment and the good co-operation between the government and the women’s groups.
This Conference should clearly send the message across Europe that combating violence against women is a very high priority and something to be taken seriously. The support demonstrated here in statements must be turned into serious action at the national and local levels, where it really matters.
READ THE FULL ADDRESS AT COE.int