[Brussels, Nicosia, 15 January 2020] The European Women’s Lobby in solidarity with the Cyprus Women’s Lobby demand justice for victims of sexual violence and rape and call for adequate measures to protect victims of rape at all stages of investigations/according to the provisions of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention). Furthermore, the EWL recalls that all forms of violence against women including sexual violence are a European issue. There is an urgent need for a coherent approach across the EU to ensure adequate protection of all women no matter where they live or where they travel to in the EU.
Women’s organisations in the Cyprus and all over Europe have been denouncing for years the lack of adequate mechanisms to support victims of rape and to grant access to justice. The existing mechanisms further revictimise women once that they report their abuse. Protests all over the country have been organised over the past months to support the British young woman who reported a gang rape in Cyprus in 2019 and was prosecuted after retracting her allegation following the complete lack of support by the Cypriot authorities. In their statement below, the Cyprus Women’s Lobby denounces the series of abuse that victims of rape suffer systematically and calls for a series of measures to ensure access to justice and the implementation of the provisions of the Istanbul Convention, ratified by Cyprus in 2017. You can find more information on the Istanbul convention here.
Sexual violence against women and rape is a serious form of violation of human rights and one of the most devastating forms of gender-based violence in Europe, yet it is too often shrouded in silence. Overall, women are not believed and are being silenced due to prevalent and deeply rooted patriarchal culture, sexism and misogyny all over Europe. Women are afraid to ask for protection, do not know where to go and/or do not believe that the existent legal system is going to protect them. This leads to a great majority of sex crimes to remain undisclosed, underestimated and its perpetrators unpunished. Reference at European level indicates that only between 2% and 10% of rapes are reported.
As this case has shown, women face additional risks when reporting violence to the authorities, and there is often no guarantee that they will be treated respectfully by the judicial system, which can lead them to withdraw their allegations. The road ‘from report to court’1 is paved with many obstacles for women. Many reported rapes are never prosecuted and from those that are prosecuted, the vast majority do not end in a conviction. Existing comparative research shows that in Europe, on average, 14% of reported rapes end in a conviction, with rates falling as low as 5% in some countries2.
Furthermore, the case of this young woman has also demonstrated once again the need of a coherent approach in the support mechanisms and the legal system all across the EU to ensure adequate protection of all women no matter where they live or where they travel to in the EU. Violence against women and sexual violence is a European issue and urgent EU action is needed.
The European Women’s Lobby is calling for the adoption of a comprehensive EU-wide strategy and a legal framework on disrupting the continuum of violence against women, putting an end to all forms of violence against women while providing peace and security for all women and girls in Europe.
The European Women’s Lobby demands for:
- The EU’s accession and implementation of the Istanbul Convention, as a key tool for preventing and combating different forms of violence against women including sexual violence and rape, protecting its victims and prosecuting its perpetrators. All EU Member States should also ratify and implement the Convention.
- The addition of violence against women to the list of EU crimes in the EU treaties.
- The design of a comprehensive legal framework, including the adoption of a Directive on violence against women applying to all forms of violence against women in all spheres of life.
CYPRUS WOMEN’S LOBBY ANNOUNCEMENT
NICOSIA 5 January 2020
The Cyprus Women’s Lobby (CWL) calls on the President of the Cyprus Republic to exercise his Constitutional Right and grant the young Englishwoman a pardon, if the impending ruling delivers a prison sentence.
The Cyprus Women’s Lobby considers such a development very positive and certainly beneficial for the young woman who has been repeatedly abused by the entire system and its institutions in recent months. However, the CWL stresses that it is unacceptable for victims of sexual violence and/or abuse to rely on presidential pardons because the system is problematic.
The CWL condemns the way in which this young woman has been victimised and paraded by the whole spectrum of processes and institutions in the year 2020 in Cyprus and calls on all relevant Ministers to immediately examine how the competent authorities handle complaints related to rape and/or other sexual abuse or victims of domestic violence.
The CWL notes once again the urgent need to establish and implement Protocols for Sexual Violence Complaint Management and Victim Support, both by the Cyprus Police and the Judiciary and by any other Competent Authorities and Ministry. What has become apparent once again is the lack of any type of protocols for reporting rape
The CWL specifically calls on the Minister of Justice and Public Order, as well as the Chief of Police, where appropriate, to immediately take all necessary steps, with the assistance of experts, to examine all procedures and practices that are being followed and are currently being applied by the Police to handle complaints of sexual abuse and/or rape.
In addition, the Cyprus Women’s Lobby calls on the Minister of Health to take immediate action to initiate procedures to develop protocols for the handling as well as of the training of medical officers for the victims of violence and/or sexual abuse or rape and for providing all medical centres with a “rape kit”.
Finally, the CWL welcomes the decision of the Committee on Journalistic Ethics, dated 21/11/2019, which condemned the way in which a number of Media outlets handled the whole issue.
The Cyprus Women’s Lobby is a member of the European Women’s Lobby, the largest European non-governmental organisation on gender equality.
The announcement is supported by the following organisations, members of the CWL:
• Women’s Organisation “ Protopria”
• “Hypatia” Foundation Promoting Research,
• Mediterranean Institute for Gender Studies - MIGS
• Cyprus Family Planning Association
• Cyprus Equality Observatory - CIP
• Socialist Women’s Movement
• Association for the Prevention and Handling of Domestic Violence - SPAVO
• Hands Across the Divide - HAD
Cyprus Women’s Lobby: https://www.facebook.com/WomenLobbyCY/
1. Borrowing the title of the following report: Hester, M 2013, ‘From Report to Court: Rape and the Criminal Justice System in the North East’. Bristol: University of Bristol.
2. Jo Lovett and Liz Kelly (2009) Different systems, similar outcomes. Tracking attrition in reported rape cases across Europe. London: CWASU, London Metropolitan University. (Funded by Daphne II). Hester, M 2013, ‘From Report to Court: Rape and the Criminal Justice System in the North East’. Bristol:University of Bristol.