Thursday, May 12, 2011

Progress on the Domestic Violence Front

Turkey has signed a new Council of Europe convention to prevent and combat violence against women. As documented by a report released by Human Rights Watch earlier this month, Turkey has been plagued by domestic violence over the years thanks in part to problems implementing existing law. Turkey pushed very hard for the Convention to be opened for signatures at the Council's recent ministerial meeting. From Hurriyet Daily News:
Reaching a consensus proved difficult as many countries expressed resistance to the far-reaching provisions of the convention, but Turkey adopted a negotiation position based on international standards, Acar told the Hürriyet Daily News in an interview.

“We did not hide behind any cultural, economic or political pretexts and we resisted those who wanted to water down the stipulations,” she added.

The convention is revolutionary in the sense that it accepts violence against women as a human-rights violation, according to Acar. “This is very important, because violence against women will no longer be seen as a social problem. This will strengthen women’s demands for access to judicial recourse as well as protection,” she said.

Also important is the fact that the convention has endorsed a wide-ranging definition of “violence,” Acar added.

“Violence is not only physical. It can be economic or psychological; stalking is, for instance, a type of violence,” she said. The convention also includes violence against immigrant women, a measure that was resisted by some countries.

The convention covers what are called “the 4 Ps”: prevention, protection, prosecution and policy.

“The fourth P is especially important for Turkey, since we lack an integrated policy on gender equality. This convention will be known as the Istanbul convention and that way Turkey will be known as a country championing the cause of combating violence against women,” Acar told the Daily News.

“Just as we endorsed a zero-tolerance policy on preventing torture, we need to endorse zero tolerance on violence against women. In this sense, this convention will be a new driving force for Turkish domestic efforts,” she said. “Because we really need a mentality change, especially as far as implementation is concerned. All the judges, prosecutors, police and health officials will have to be trained. And for that Turkey needs to ratify the convention as soon as possible to set a good example as well.”
And more from Bianet:
Some 20 to 25 percent of women across the European region suffer physical or sexual violence at some point in their lives, according to the explanatory memorandum accompanying the Convention.

The convention is the first legally binding instrument in the region that creates a comprehensive legal framework to combat violence against women through prevention, protection, prosecution, and victim support. It defines and criminalizes multiple forms of violence against women: physical, sexual and psychological violence, as well as forced marriage and female genital mutilation. The treaty also establishes an international group of independent experts to monitor its implementation at the national level.

The Convention addresses gaps in domestic violence legislation and implementation, such as weak laws, bad implementation of protection laws, lack of coordination, lack of access to justice, low funding for domestic violence responses, lack of shelters, and lack of prevention measures.

To implement the convention, countries will establish hotlines, shelters, medical and forensic services, counseling, as well as legal aid.
Progress at the top to be sure, but real change, of course, will be shown from below and Turkey's willingness and effectiveness to ensure that police officers and other state agents responsible for protecting women follow legal guidelines.

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