COE 1999 : SEMINAR Men and Violence


EuroPROFEM - The European Men Profeminist Network 


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66b-en_vio ... Violence


European Council of Europen - Human Rights

Section Equality between women and men

Seminar : Men and Violence Against Women

Strasbourg, 8 October 1999 - Palais de l'Europe - France




Violence against women is one of the major obstacles to the achievement of real equality between women and men. The phenomenon has its roots in the very structure of European societies, based on patriarchal values and principles. Although male violence can also be directed against other men and incidents concerning violent women are reported, the vast majority of victims of violence in the Council of Europe's member States are women and children.  

                Most European societies remain tolerant towards violence against women, considering it acceptable according to tradition. They continue, directly or indirectly, to lay the blame on the victims by suggesting that they would not have been assaulted if they had or had not acted in a certain way. Men are often excused by saying that they are subject to stress from overwork or unemployment, under the influence of alcohol or drugs, sick and so on.

                Women suffer from violence resulting in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering, both in private and public life. Violence can take different forms, such as sexual assault, violence within the family or in the domestic unit, sexual harassment and intimidation (in education, at work, in institutions or in any other place), denial of reproductive rights, genital mutilation, trafficking in human beings for the purposes of sexual exploitation and sex tourism, rape or assaults in (armed) conflict situations, honour killings and forced marriages.

                Being conscious of the above, the participants at the Seminar on “Men and violence against women”, organised by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on 7 and 8 October 1999, agreed on the following recommendations.

Recommendations to Member States of the Council of Europe

Research and in particular surveys are essential because there is still denial of the phenomenon of violence against women: they can be used as tools to convince the decision makers of the real extent of violence against women. In order to have a better understanding of the prevalence of violence, standardised instruments are necessary in order to obtain valid, reliable, comparable data as well as results which are representative of the reality.  This effort should be pursued at the local, regional, national and international level and in this perspective Governments should:

Encourage and support national and transnational research projects and surveys on different forms of violence against women taking into account the following parameters which, if neglected, may alterate the results of the research:

the gender perspective including the element of gender conflict which is present in all European societies;

the variability of meanings and of the perception of concepts in different contexts determined by various factors (such as differences in social classes, as well as in regional, cultural and linguistic backgrounds): different groups or persons may have different understanding of the same notion, such as violence;

the stigmatisation of concepts (such as rape), encouraged notably by the mass media; 

the developments and changes in cultural values; 

the changes in society especially where instability has arisen (be it due to socio-economic reasons or to a conflict): even if the source of instability disappears, the level of violence does not decrease;

Encourage the standardisation of research methodologies by using, among others, the following elements:

a representative sample of the population (1,000 respondents minimum);

a scale with very detailed descriptions of acts of violence;
input from battered women and victims of violence (also to design questionnaires);

training for interviewers and researchers which should include information on how to take into account cultural, ethnic, social and economic differences, as well as on how to have access to isolated or marginalised groups; 

precautions in order to prevent the dangers that the respondents of surveys or of case studies could encounter;

for research conducted at European level, recourse to language specialists in order to avoid translation problems;

Encourage and support national and transnational research into the following aspects:

-- what prevents a person from becoming violent;
-- ways to reach violent men and how to bring them into education programmes;
-- the prevailing polarisation in the construction of gender identities, with a view to promoting a more open perception of feminities and masculinities;
-- to what extent and in what way do social instability and social change affect gender relations and violence against women;
-- the consequences violence in the home has on children and adolescents and how it affects their socialisation and their future integration into work, as well as their relations with peers and partners;
-- ways to prevent elder abuse and violence among elderly people;
-- the financial costs of violence;

Improve interactions between the scientific community, the NGOs in the field, political decision-makers and legislative bodies in order to design co-ordinated actions against violence;

Encourage the diffusion of all relevant information (results of studies and research, statistical data, etc.) on violence against women at all levels and across the life course;

Ensure that statutory agencies which respond to men's violence convey clearly to the men that their behaviour is unacceptable and develop further strategies for repeat offenders, including multi-agency approaches at the community level;

Making use of the gender mainstreaming strategy, involve all the relevant actors normally involved in policy-making, in order to fight violence against women, even if they are not currently working on the issue;

Reinforce national legislations and measures aiming at fighting violence against women, also by introducing innovative approaches based on experiences conducted in other European countries: the pooling of experiences is essential to progress on this issue;

Adopt or reinforce social protection measures so that injuries caused to women and children by violent acts are provided for under social protection schemes;

Promote training of those involved with young people, as well as health personnel, to identify children and adolescents growing up in violent homes and to take the necessary measures to help and assist them;

Ensure training of medical personnel to enable them to identify victims of violence;

Promote the participation of women in politics and decision-making: a higher number of women in politics is important in order to adopt an increased number of measures to combat violence against women;

Promote human rights education, and especially education on equality between women and men, in all member States of the Council of Europe, especially where there is social instability;

Create a more proactive police response to violence against women;

Promote training for the judiciary regarding violence against women;

Enhance research on, and take all possible measures to prevent, development of gender dichotomy and inequality as well as male aggressiveness in the army and all military contexts (especially during military service), including armed conflicts;

Condemn all forms of violence against women and children in situations of conflict;

Condemn systematic rape, sexual slavery, enforced pregnancy of women and young girls and all forms of violence against women and children, as these, as shown in recent conflicts, tend to be used as a weapon of war;

In post-conflict regions, promote a public debate and disseminate information concerning abuses of women and children in order to prevent repetition of violence.

Recommendations to the Council of Europe

The participants emphasised that the international community – especially international organisations such as the Council of Europe – have a major ethical role to play in promoting zero tolerance towards violence against women. By condemning this violence, they can give an important political signal to governments and to policy-makers.

The participants noted that the continuous work achieved by the Council of Europe, and in particular by its Steering Committee on Equality between women and men (CDEG), to combat violence against women have substantially assisted in increasing the visibility of the problem. The Action Plan published in 1997 was considered as an effective platform on which to formulate national measures.

The Council of Europe should continue to play a key role in the combat against violence. The need for transnational actions to be undertaken at legislative, policy and research level to enhance international co-operation can be the basis for the future action of the Council of Europe.

The following activities could be conducted in the Council of Europe or with its assistance:

Continue and complete, as rapidly as possible, the preparation of the draft Recommendation on protecting women and young girls against violence, which is being prepared under the aegis of the Steering Committee for equality between women and men (CDEG). Once adopted, the Recommendation may serve as a reference for national policies on actions against violence;

Prepare as soon as possible a study on the position as regards legislation in the field of violence against women in the member States; ensure the translation and diffusion of this document in member States;

Organise, possibly in co-operation with other competent bodies and International Organisations, regular meetings involving in particular policy-makers, researchers, practitioners and police, in order to take stock and exchange information on the current stage of research and practice in the area;

Compile country reports, based on research and information collected at national level, focusing on violence against women and the measures taken to combat it;

Following the recent conflicts in South-East Europe, contribute to the efforts undertaken at European level to foster peace and stability in countries of the region by organising activities aiming at combating violence against women in all its forms;

Foster research on the development of violence against women in its different forms during and after the conflicts which have recently affected South-East Europe, including the increase in domestic violence.


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