EWL press coverage

Gender-based violence, EU countries’ legislation still lags behind

Posted on 18 June 2013 by Redazione, for EuNews.it by Letizia Pascale

According to a survey of the European Women’s Lobby, only five states, including Italy, respect the Istanbul Convention. They lack even in the collection of data regarding the phenomenon.

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Photo by Roberto Rognoni for “Quelli di Grock”

In the fight to prevent violence against women – on paper at least, Italy is among the top of the class. Our country is one of the few in Europe with legislation that meets the minimum standards required by the Istanbul Convention, the International Treaty of the Council of Europe aimed at preventing and sanctioning Femicide, rape and other forms of gender violence. The European Women’s Lobby (EWL), which brings together more than 2,000 women’s associations throughout Europe, is analyzing the actions put in place by European states against rape. The organization has developed a true “barometer” that has examined two different indicators for 2013: the existing legislation in each country and the presence of data regarding this phenomenon.

The analysis of the first index, the one on legislation, clearly illustrates that something is wrong in Europe. The vast majority of states do not even respect the minimum standards set by the Istanbul Convention. Six countries (Bulgaria, Hungary, Lithuania, Malta, Serbia and Ukraine) have legislation far below the standard. For example, in the Hungarian laws, they still refer to “sexual morality”; in Malta rape is defined as a crime against “the peace and honor of the families”; in Bulgaria there is even the possibility for the rapist to avoid sanctions by marrying the woman before sentencing, while in Lithuania rape in a married couple is not considered a crime.

Only five countries pass the exam: Italy, Ireland and Turkey have legislation that corresponds to the minimum standards, while only two, the Netherlands and Great Britain, exceed the standards needed to meet the Istanbul Convention. All other countries examined by the EWL experts have legislation that still lacks in safeguarding women against sexual violence.

The situation does not improve if you consider the availability of data on this phenomenon because with very few exceptions information on female victims of sexual violence does not exist at all. The cause is still partly due to the fear of reporting it. According to some research and based on the experience of NGOs, it is estimated that in Europe only between 2-10% of rapes are declared. Fear of retaliation, shame, and lack of confidence in the judicial system hinder the possibility that proportions of the phenomenon can be correctly identified. But this is not the only cause: the states themselves often do not collect any data on the phenomenon.

According to the barometer of the European Women’s Lobby, data that gives relevant information is systematically collected only in Germany and Slovenia. In 8 other countries (Austria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Lithuania, Portugal, Serbia and Sweden) statistics exist but give lacking information: for example, no data highlights the relationship between the victim and the guilty party of the crime. It is even worse in five other countries, including Italy: here the statistics do not include data broken down by gender and the only information comes from more general investigations on crime or safety. All the other countries provide a level of information on the phenomenon tantamount to zero: the police force or judicial systems do not register and collect any type of information and there is no data on rapes.

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EWL event "Progress towards a Europe free from all forms of male violence" to mark the 10th aniversary of the Istanbul Convention, 12 May 2021.

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