Act against rape! Use the Istanbul Convention!

Successful mobilisation of EWL members across Europe: Act against rape! Promote the Istanbul Convention!

[Brussels, 20 December 2013] After several months of fruitful work and good cooperation, the joint project between the European Women’s Lobby and Council of Europe to has come to an end. During this time common our aim has been to raise awareness on the phenomenon of rape as a devastating form of violence against women and also to promote the Istanbul Convention.

The European Women’s Lobby has coordinated this project in close cooperation with the EWL member organisations and the experts of the EWL Observatory on violence against women, who have had a crucial role organising the public events that have taken place around the 16 days of activism against violence against women. Find here, the full list of events in all the countries involved.

In all of them, the EWL member organisations and the experts of the EWL Observatory on violence against women have raised awareness on the positive changes that the Istanbul Convention can bring with a special focus on sexual violence, including rape. Taking into account the results of the EWL Barometer on rape in Europe 2013, the discussions have focused on the possible ways forward in each country, the obstacles to overcome and the progress to accomplish in order to improve legislation, services and data collection mechanisms. New ideas have emerged all over Europe to continue working together in promoting the Istanbul Convention.

As coordinator of this project the European Women’s Lobby has produced an Action Kit aiming to help the EWL members in the organization of the events. In this Action Kit, you can find detailed information on the project and all the key messages that have been disseminated.

In the framework of this project, the EWL has also produced a video-clip that was launched on the 25th November, as a tool to speak out and draw attention to the fact that rape needs to be seriously addressed by the authorities in terms of access to justice, prevention and support to victims. Furthermore, to mark the International Human Rights Day (10 December), the EWL organised a round table “Promote Human Rights ”, co-hosted by Mr. Michael Gustafson and Ms. Antonyia Parvanova. MEPs, representatives of civil society and representatives of the Council of Europe and the CoE Parliamentary Assembly Network “Women free from violence” expressed their engagement in the promotion of the Istanbul Convention. Find out more here.

At country level, during the last two weeks, 9 events have taken place in the following countries:

9 December


The Autonomous Women’s Center , the Network of Women Against Violence and the Network for the European Women’s Lobby organized in Belgrade a round table to raise awareness about rape and other sexual offenses in Serbia . The aim of the roundtable was to review existing legislation and practices in relation to criminal offenses against sexual freedom and the necessity of their compliance with the standards set by the Istanbul Convention.

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The event was attended by representatives of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia , state institutions (Ministry of Health, Ministry of Interior , Public Prosecutor ) , independent mechanisms (Ombudsman) , civil society organizations and the media.

Find more information here.


On the same day, in Tallin, the Estonian Women’s Association Rountable Programme organised an event in which the results of the EWL barometer on rape 2013 were presented by Eha Reitelmann, expert of the EWL Observatory on violence against women. Estonia’s current situation of sexual violence prevention, intervention responses to violence and collection of relevant statistical data was introduced from the perspective of the following institutions/entities: gynecologists by Mairi Kaha, board chairwoman of the Estonian Sexual Health Association; women’s shelters by Külli Piirsild, board member of the Estonian Women’s Shelters’ Union and manager of Võru County Women’s Shelter; the police, by Kerli Palu, leading officer of the Central Criminal Police; prosecuting authorities, Enda Ülviste, leading prosecutor of the North District Prosecutor’s Office; Ministry of Social Affairs, by Helen Sööl, chief specialist of the gender equality department; Ministry of the Interior, by Jenny Jakobson, adviser of the law enforcement and criminal policy department; Ministry of Justice, by Laidi Surva, adviser, Criminal Statistics and Analysis Division; Ministry of Education and Research, by Kadri Ann Salla. The presentations were followed by a discussion.

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Finally, the possible ways forward towards the rartification of the Istanbul Convention were discussed. Find more information here.

10 December


On the 10th of December, the Hungarian Women’s Lobby organised an event whose goal was twofold: on the one hand, to put on the political agenda the necessity of effective state response to sexual violence and rape, and on the second hand to mobilise decision-makers in order to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention.

The forum on the 10th December was opened by Ms. Borbála Juhász, chair of the Hungarian Women’s Lobby, the Importance and Main Principles of the Istanbul Convention was explained by Dr. Enikő Pap, legal expert, Hungarian Women’s Lobby. The forum consisted of two parts: lectures by NGO experts, civil servants and politicians, which was followed by a general discussion. Two of HWL member organisations, the NANE Association and the PATENT Association were represented at the event as speakers. Dr. Judit Wirth legal expert, NANE Women’s Rights Association presented what are the national experiences regarding the Response of the Legal and Institutional System to Sexual Violence: National Experiences.

From the part of the Government, Dr. Katalin Kiszely deputy state secretary at the Ministry of Public Administration and Justice informed on the Activities of the Working Group Dealing with Violence against Women . Dr. Attila Gruber MP – Fidesz, Hungarian member of the Parliamentary Network “Women Free from Violence” of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, Katalin Ertsey MP – LMP explained the Role of Parliaments in Combating Violence against Women and for the Ratification of the Istanbul Convention.

Finally, a general discussion took place in which the future Steps to be taken for the effective response to violence against women was discussed as well as the room for and framework of cooperation between state actors and NGOs.

The forum was closed by His Excellency, the Ambassador of Finland, Mr Pasi Tuominen.

A video message of Mr Mendes Bota, Parliamentary Network “Women Free from Violence” of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly , was made available here.

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In the framework of the EWL-COE joint project, the HWL has organised as well a cultural event on the 4th December at the University of Fine Arts in Budapest, at the “finissage” of the Poste fortomorrow Gender Equality Now! Exhibition. The HWL psychologist expert, Eva Horváth talked with Veronika Czapáry, a young writer who published a novel about incest from the viewpoint of a little girl (Megszámolt babák- Dolls counted). The event was advertised through the social media, and included young art students and general supporters of the women’s cause. The chair of HWL opened the event informing and introducing the Istanbul Convention.

Find out more here.


On the 10 December 2013, the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies organised an event in the Hose of Europe at Nicosia, aiming at starting the debate on the need to take immediate measures to prevent sexual violence and rape, and to protect and support victims. Also , to promote the Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence as one of the most important tools on the Elimination of all forms of violence against women.

During the event we had interventions from Susana Pavlou, President of the Cyprus Women’s Lobbyand expert of the EWL Observatory on violence against women, Mr. Rikkos Mappourides, Member of the House Committee on Human Rights and Equal Opportunities, Ms. Nasia Dionysiou, Officer of the Commissioner for Administration (Ombudsman) and Human Rights, and Dr. Dimitra Sorvatzioti, Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Nicosia. There were also significant interventions by representatives of NGOs such as the Association for the Prevention and Handling of Violence in the Family, the Movement for Equality, Support and Anti-racism (KISA) and Hands across the Divide.

Through the discussions held, it was made clear that the Cyprus legislative framework in relation to rape and sexual violence does not meet the minimum standards set by the Istanbul Convention. For example, in the Cyprus Criminal Code rape, indecent assault, and the ‘corruption of a woman through the use of threats, fraud, or the administration of drugs’ is classified as a criminal offence against ‘morals’ and not as a human rights violation. The Convention clearly defines violence against women as a human rights violation that is directly linked to gender inequality. While in the Cyprus penal code rape is narrowly defined, the Convention broadens the definition of rape and sexual violence includes all non-consensual acts of a sexual nature.

Furthermore, through the discussion and the interventions by NGOs and women’s organisations, it was revealed that there are no specialized services for the support and protection victims of rape and sexual violence. During the event, a survivor of rape talked about the lack of support and the poor treatment she received from the health services. The lack of support and protection also has a huge impact on the ability of victims to go through the criminal justice process.

The Minister of Justice has committed to signing the Istanbul Convention once the results of a study that is being carried out by the Government to examine the legal and financial implications of signing and ratifying the Istanbul Convention are finalized. This is expected by end of January 2014.

Find out more at the following link.

Media coverage of the event:


To mark the International Human Rights Day, on the 10th December, the Women’s NGOs Cooperation Network of Latvia organised a Roundtable discussion in Riga with the parliamentarians representing diverse political spectrum. The discussion was organized in an interactive way identifying the current state and desired state, obstacles and drafting an action plan together with the representatives of national coordination of European Women’s Lobby in Latvia.

Furthermore, on the week from December 2nd, the Women’s NGOs Cooperation Network of Latvia organised daily flashmobs in partnership with radio stations of Latvia.

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In the week commencing November 25th 2013 a public address by the Deputy State Secretary on sectoral policy of the Ministry of Justice Ms. Laila Medina was released and distributed to the wider public on the latest developments in the field of Istanbul Convention. Ministry of Justice is the leading ministry for these initiatives.


The event, organised by the Network of East-West Women took place Warsaw on the 10th December. It was organized as one big, two days event called “War on Gender” with the participation of many distinguished guests including the Minister for Equal Treatment, Agnieszka Kozłowska-Rajewicz, the Director of her office Monika Ksieniewicz, Plenipotentiary for Women’s Rights of the Polish Army, Polish representative of the European Network of Police Women, Swedish Ambassador, Head of Criminology Department of Warsaw University and guests from Hungary, Lithuania, Serbia, Romania and Spain and almost all main women NGOs from Poland. The video-clip on Rape was screened and the EWL-CoE joint project presented together with the results of the EWL Barometer on rape. Furthermore, the situation of rape victims at the local level in Poland was presented by Beata Kubica who is a member of the Polish Women’s Lobby and also a member of the city council in Opole.

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Together with the Minister for Equal Treatment and the Director of her office the next steps for ratification of the Istanbul Convention we discussed. During the event, the Director of the office of the Minister, announced that she got a phone call from the Council of Ministers office with an information that the Prime Minister expects that the final amendments to five legal acts that need to be changed in order to ratify the convention should be presented by the Minister of Equal Treatment no later than the end of February . The announcement about the planned changes in legislation aiming at the ratification can be found in the Polish press:

One of the main outcomes of the event was the petition to ratify the Istanbul Convention as quickly as possible. The petition was already signed by all the participants of the conference. The petition will be sent to all the parliamentarians and to the President of Poland and placed on our websites ( and in social media.

11 December


The Austrian Women’s Ring organised a round table on the 11th December in Vienna with a focus on the implementation of the Istanbul Convention. As Austria had already signed, ratified and tabled the ratification of the Istanbul Convention in Strasbourg, the event looked into participation of NGOs in the implementation and monitoring process.

The prerequisites for a platform to follow the implementation and the monitoring process were discussed, as well as the participation of NGOs and of Members of the Austrian Parliament.

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The Austrian Member of Parliament Gisela Wurm, who is the leader of the Austrian delegation to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, was the keynote speaker. She informed about the process leading to the convention and pointed out the 4 main pillars: Prevention of Violence, Protection against Violence, Criminal Justice and (international) Monitoring.

In the Round Table Discussion, moderated by the Chair of Frauenring Christa Pölzlbauer, the experts Katharine Beclin, Marion Breiter, Ursula Kussyk and Catharina Grau discussed legal prerequisites to implement the Istanbul Convention, such as changes in the criminal law in particular sentences for perpetrators and the rights of victims. They underlined the need for compulsory awareness building programmes for judges and legal staff, similar to those for the police force. Furthermore the Social services have to be strengthened and adequate funds provided for help-lines and shelters. Legal changes may be necessary in order to provide information to persons dealing with family members of victims, e.g. teachers, medical doctors….
Most important for preventing violence against women is awareness building in all strata of society, the elimination of stereotypes from teaching materials, media and advertising.
Participation of NGOs was discussed as well as a framework to support such participation.

Find out more at:

16 December

The Netherlands

The Dutch National Coordination for the European Women’s (NVR) Lobby organised an event on the 16th of December at the House of Europe in The Hague. The event aimed at raising awareness on the Council of Europe (CoE) Istanbul Convention and the situation in the field of combating violence against women.

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NVR presented the latest developments in the Netherlands when it comes to dealing with violence, and the need for care facilities, and good practices how women who have been victims of violence are in control of their lives. Moreover, the NVR called the Dutch Government to ratify the Convention Istanbul as this treaty gives countries the tools to address violence against women and domestic violence: preventing and countering them, and to monitor the policy. The need of the implementation of the Istanbul Convention also in the Dutch provinces overseeas was specifically discussed. During the event, it was agreed that an (informal) group of NGO’s, with close contacts in civil society on these islands, and representatives of the relevant Dutch ministries will meet in spring 2014, to discuss a joint strategy.

Find out more at:

19 December


In Spain, CELEM organised a round table in Madrid on the 19th December at the premises of the Offices of the European Commission. Representatives from the academia, NGO sector and media analysed the positive aspects that the ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention could bring to effectively address sexual violence.

Julia Sevilla, professor of the University of Valencia and president of the Valencian Coordination for CELEM, informed that education is a fundamental measure to prevent violence against women. Ana Pelaez, member of the UN Committee on Rights of people with disabilities and member of the EWL board, informed that the phenomenon of violence against women with disabilities is still invisible and not well addressed. Manuel Alcaide, police inspector of the sexual crimes unit of Madrid, explained the areas that need to be improved to better combat rape and protect its victims. Ana de Miguel, Professor of the University of Rey Juan Carlos, made a presentation on the topic of the socialization of women and the rape culture: the trivialization of rape impedes its eradication.

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During the second panel, Soledad Maruaga, president of the Association Women to Health, talked about the second victimisation of women victims of rape at the social and health services, the penal process, etc. She also mentioned the phenomenon of incest as a very taboo and invisible form of sexual abuse. Barbara Tardon, representative of Fundacion Aspacia and the Campaign "Violadas y Expulsadas" informed on the high vulnerability of undocumented migrant women. Finally, Nuria Varela, journalist and feminist, presented the Istanbul Convention

The documentary “Pourquoi?” by Ouka Leele was screened on the phenomenon of sexual violence in Democratic Republic of Congo. Caddy Adzuba explained her story as survivor.

To close the event, Marta Torres, lawyer and consultant on human rights and gender equality, presented the conclusions of the event highlighting that the objectification and sexualization of women’s body is against human and women’s rights.

Find out more: and

Latest video

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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