07 Dec 2018

Fighting violence against women -- lessons and challenges from Turkey and the Western Balkans

Data gathered by the European Women's Lobby indicates that the ratification of the Istanbul Convention has proven to be a viable framework for the implementation of new legislation, despite ongoing challenges in the region.

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Why this story matters:

Despite being much maligned and often depicted as a manifesto for extreme feminism, the Istanbul Convention has given ratifying countries an incentive to incorporate gender-based violence into existing legislation, thus offering additional protection for women. 

Commendably, the Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, FYR Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia) and Turkey now have national action plans to tackle either domestic violence or violence against women. However, there is still much to be done to fully implement the provisions of the convention.

Foremost among the necessary improvements is a regional strategy that would unify existing national action plans, and tackle regional causes of violence against women. Additionally, Turkey and the Western Balkans will need to ensure a continued and adequate supply of funds so that relevant measures can be implemented.

Country-specific recommendations

  • Albania -- Increase the level of financial and human resources to enable policies to be carried out in a sustainable manner, without heavily relying on outside donors. Match the important functions of the National Council on Gender Equality with appropriate staff and funding.
  • Bosnia -- Establish education programs that emphasize gender equality, the destruction wrought by patriarchal attitudes, and the criminality of VAWG. Undertake awareness raising campaigns regarding VAWG. Organise comprehensive, gender-sensitive training for professionals working with VAWG survivors and introduce accreditation for professionals workingon VAWG issues. Conduct further research on the natureand prevalence of different forms of VAWG. 
  • Kosovo -- Amend the Constitution to include the Istanbul Convention into the list of international human rights frameworks that directly apply and have priority inapplication. Immediately develop, adopt and start implementing a Kosovo-wide effective, comprehensive and co-ordinated strategy and action plan encompassing all relevant measures to prevent and combat all forms of violence against women covered by the scope of the Istanbul Convention, including domestic violence.
  • FYR Macedonia -- Apply and promote a change in policy making and implementation when dealing with VAW and DV, making clear that this phenomenon is understood as a human rights infringement and it is based on historically unequal power between women and men. Collect and publish annually disaggregated data on all forms of VAW, including the relationship between perpetrator and victim including children victims, the specific vulnerability of the victims (disability, residence status, etc.).
  • Montenegro -- Ensure full compliance of Criminal Codewith the IC provisions, so that it defines domestic violence as a criminal offence and covers all other forms of gender-based violence against women, including marital rape and psychological violence.
  • Serbia --  Align national legal framework with Istanbul Convention fully. Produce realistic action plan on combating VAW, including detailed public budget allocations. Produce a plan to support and fund the local licensed services provided by women CSOs.
  • Turkey --  Increasing the share of state budget allocated to elimination of VAW. Recording data on VAW disaggregated with regards to sex, age, type of violence. Launching of a national hotline specialized for VAW. Enabling access of women and children of all ages to shelters. Providing effective psychological assistance to survivors in VPMCs and shelters. Issuing of injunction orders on the basis of a comprehensive risk analysis. Incorporating DV as a separate crime in CC, and if not, at least to have aggravated forms for different types of violence that might occur in domestic relations; and incorporation of stalking and psychological violence as separate crimes in CC.
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