[FEMM Committee, European Parliament, Brussels, 15 June 2011] MEPs today welcomed the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence adopted on 7 April 2011 by Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. However, they stressed the importance of its proper implementation in national law in the debate in the Women’s Rights Committee on "tackling gender-based violence - international perspectives" with José Mendes Bota, Chairperson of the Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and Rashida Manjoo, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women.
Ms Manjoo stated that violence against women remained the most pervasive human rights violation. Mr Mendes Bota said that the Convention was a new legal instrument which could change the lives of millions of women, in Europe and in the world. It recognises violence against women as a violation of human rights and a form of discrimination The Convention establishes high standards concerning prevention of gender-based violence, protection and assistance for its victims and prosecution of the perpetrators, said Mr Mendes Bota, adding that these standards are a minimum threshold, which States may upgrade.
Elizabeth Morin-Chartier (EPP, FR) advocated the establishment of links between human and women’s rights at international, national and regional level as regards to previous achievements. There is a need of a global programme in view of the application of the Convention in daily life.
A major challenge in combating gender-based violence, Ms Manjoo said, is the lack of effective implementation of existing human rights standards to ensure that the root causes and consequences of violence against women are tackled at all levels.
Sound policies and adequate financial resources
Ilda FIGUEIREDO (GUE/NGL, PT) pointed to the need for a more precise and stringent legal framework as well as financial resources. Legislative efforts, Ms Manjoo reiterated, must be accompanied by sound policies and programmes, and, most importantly, adequate resources.
Izaskun BILBAO BARANDICA (ALDE, ES) pinpointed to inequality as the origin of gender-based violence. This should be analysed, she said.
Concerning the question of evidence, Andrea ?EŠKOVÁ (ECR, CZ) noted that the burden of proof still lies with the claimant and not with the perpetrator.
A few points on the Convention
It is the first international treaty to contain a definition of gender, which refers to “the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes”, that is that women and men are not only biologically female or male, but that there is also a socially constructed category of gender that assigns women and men their particular roles and behaviours.
It introduces a set of criminal offences such as female genital mutilation, forced marriage, psychological violence, stalking, sexual harassment, sexual violence including rape, forced abortion and forced sterilisation. This means that states will have to introduce offences for these acts where they do not currently exist in their legal systems.
It covers women and girls, from any background, regardless of their age, race, religion, social origin, migrant status or sexual orientation.
States are also encouraged to apply the Convention to other victims of domestic violence such as men, children and the elderly.