Report finds that violence against women services are lacking in Europe

Emma Nevin

Services that address sexual violence and other forms of violence against women often are lacking, according to a new report from the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO).

The report, released April 6, concluded that while gender-based violence is at the “forefront of public debate” more needs to be done to end such violence by Council of Europe states. The report is based on findings from 2015-2019.

GREVIO is an independent expert body who monitors that the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic violence (Istanbul Convention) is implemented by the countries that signed.

The report found that specialist support services for victims are still insufficient in number and their funding is “extremely volatile.” This is largely due to a lack of these services in rural areas, causing many to be excluded.

GREVIO also found that “too many criminal justice systems in Europe maintain definitions of rape requiring evidence that the perpetrator used coercion or that the victim failed to fight back.”

Ireland is one of only eight countries involved in the Convention that defines rape as an absence of consent, despite the Convention’s 36th Article obliging state parties to the treaty to criminalize all non-consensual acts of a sexual nature.

Another problem that the report linked to a lack of progress is the “gender-neutral” approach of legal provisions and policy documents that address domestic violence in some countries.

By failing to recognise that women are disproportionately affected by such violence, responses will ” fail to recognise domestic violence as a social mechanism that helps keep women in a subordinate position to men.”

The body’s 15 members, three men and twelve women, is “pleased” many countries have introduced “higher legislative and policy standards” at the national level, but also said the deliberate spreading of false narratives regarding the convention has prevented them from making the progress they want.

Following the release of the report, first GREVIO President Feride Acar said: History has shown time and again that values and principles of equality, inclusiveness, diversity, tolerance, and promotion and protection of human rights have always outlived very strong reactionary currents that have tried to repress these values, including women’s human rights.”

Emma Nevin

Image Credit: GREVIO