Friday, May 13, 2011

New Treaty Aimed Specifically at Combating Violence Against Women

On Wednesday of this week, the Council of Europe (COE) opened for signature the first comprehensive international convention that is focused specifically on combatting violence against women.  The new treaty is called "The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence."  Thirteen of the COE's forty-seven members signed the Convention at a ceremony in Istanbul on Wednesday, including: Austria, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Turkey.

While recognizing that many other international agreements such as the Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, address the subject generally, this new treaty also recognizes that violence against women is still too prevalent in society.  The Convention is intended to strengthen pan-European efforts to combat this phenomenon.

Article 5 of the Convention sets forth some of the main State obligations:

"1   Parties shall refrain from engaging in any act of violence against women and ensure that State authorities, officials, agents, institutions and other actors acting on behalf of the State act in conformity with this obligation.

2   Parties shall take the necessary legislative and other measures to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, punish and provide reparation for acts of violence covered by the scope of this Convention that are perpetrated by non-State actors."

Subsequent articles spell out these obligations in more detail, including provisions on education, training, prevention, support for victims, stalking, telephone helplines, shelters, nonrefoulement, and much more.

Article 6 deals requires gender-sensitive policies: "Parties shall undertake to include a gender perspective in the implementation and evaluation of the impact of the provisions of this Convention and to promote and effectively implement policies of equality between women and men and the empowerment of women."

States also commit to provide adequate resources to fund these measures.


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