[Strasbourg, 10 December 2013] On the occasion of the International Human Rights Day (10 December), the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) organised a round-table “Promote rights! Act against rape!”, co-hosted by MEPs Mikael Gustafsson and Antonyia Parvanova. The event was part of the Joint project with the Council of Europe “Act against Rape! Use the Istanbul Convention!”, closing the 16 Days of Activism against violence against women (25 November – 10 December). During this period, EWL members and experts of the EWL Observatory on violence against women have been organising a series of events to raise awareness on rape and promote the Istanbul Convention as a tool of change.
The first panel highlighted that rape is a devastating form of violence against women and a persistent violation of women’s rights and discussed in which ways an action at European level can help to promote the Istanbul Convention. The panel started by reminding the symbolic date of International Human Rights day but also highlighting that still today many women’s rights are violated. Mr. Mickael Gustafsson (GUE, Sweden), Ms. Antonyia Parvanova (ALDE, Bulgaria), Ms. Teresa Jimenez-Becerril (EPP, Spain) and Ms. Zita Gurmai (S&D, Hungary), as members of the European Parliament, and Ms. Ismeta Dervoz as member of the Parliamentary Network “Women free from Violence, at the Parliamentary Assembly of the CoE (Bosnia and Herzegovina) presented the Europe-wide challenges in responding to sexual violence and highlighted the positive changes that the Istanbul Convention can bring in this field. They called for the EU to be more engaged for the elimination of violence against women by adopting a European strategy, a EU Year on violence against women and by ratifying the Istanbul Convention.
Ms. Liri Kopaci-Di Michele, Head of Division Gender Equality and Violence against Women of the Council of Europe, reminded how the Istanbul Convention is a model instrument and the need for stronger action to transpose it concretely. She welcomed the partnership with the European Parliament and women’s NGOs, hoping this could help to make the Convention effective in a very near future.
At the second panel, Hilary Fischer (Director of Policy, Voice and Membership, Women’s Aid Federation England) presented the first evidences from the inquiry “Justice for Women: From Reporting to Sentencing”, highlighting the obstacles women face to access justice, especially in cases of sexual violence in intimate partnership. She also mentioned the dangers of a decreasing funding for support services and gave a brief feedback on the 16 days of action campaign Women’s Aid is running on ratification of the Istanbul Convention.
Nora Kiss (Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights, Portugal), explained that while women’s NGOs welcome the ratification of the Istanbul Convention by Portugal, they are aware of the challenges ahead for the implementation of the Convention, specifically regarding the needed changes in the legislation and the provision of services. She informed on the lack of services to support women victims of sexual violence and the lobbying strategy to keep promoting the adequate and timely implementation of the Convention.
Colette De Troy, Director EWL Observatory on Violence against Women, presented some of the first results of the joint project between the EWL and the Council of Europe and provided an overview of the events at country level and their outcomes. She also reasserted that this project has settled the ground for future actions and further cooperation in the promotion of the Istanbul Convention.
To close the event, the European Women’s Lobby screened the video-clip “Act against rape!” to the audience. This video clip aims at speaking out and draws attention to the fact that rape needs to be seriously addressed by the authorities in terms of access to justice, prevention and support to victims. It is one of the tools used in the joint project “Act against Rape! Use the Istanbul Convention” .
A the end of the event, all the MEPs attending the event showed their strong commitment and high engagement to promote the Istanbul Convention, as it can be seen in the following pictures:
Ms. Antonyia Parvanova, Ms. Teresa Jimenez-Becerril, Ms.Liri Kopaci-Di Michele, Ms. Ismeta Devroz, Mr. Mikael Gustafson, Ms. Zita Gurmai, Ms. Ana Hedh.