European & International News

Women’s shelters in Europe are lacking effective political and financial support, says WAVE

[Women Against Violence Europe, Brussels, 24 November 2011] The increasingly tense global economic situation does not spare the most crucially needed social services. Among them are women’s support services, which specifically engage in the effort to end violence against women and their children. Despite the international and European developments with regards to declarations and treaties, in reality the implementation of political statements and national legislation is lagging far behind.

In the European Union alone, approximately every fourth to every fifth woman has suffered male violence during adult life. If all forms of violence against women are taken into account, around 45 per cent of all women experience violence. This means that in the 27 EU Member States, about 100 million women are estimated to become victims of gender-based violence in their lifetime – and one to two million women are victimised daily (European Commission 2010). Data provided to WAVE by its focal points in 44 European countries show that structures of women’s shelters need substantial strengthening and constant financial support by national institutions and local authorities. However, European countries are failing to provide women survivors of violence and their children with adequate services that address their specific needs, as this is shown by the serious lack of women’s shelters discovered by the WAVE country report 2010. Additionally, the current financial crisis has resulted in threats of and closures of women’s shelters all over Europe. This results not only in a decline of the numbers of shelters, but also undermines the minimum requirements and standards that women’s support services are able to provide.

When comparing international recommendations with the real situation it becomes obvious, that political leaders need to be reminded of their self defined obligations. According to Council of Europe recommendations, every country should guarantee one shelter place for every 10,000 inhabitants. In reality there are only 27,000 shelter places (beds) in Europe and an urgent need to create further 54,000 to comply with the CoE standards. WAVE is also concerned by the hesitant support of the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 11th May 2011 in Istanbul. Even though the convention is open to all countries of the world, only 17 have so far signed it and none of them has ratified it so far. In order for the convention to get effective, 10 countries need to undergo ratification. WAVE therefore urges all countries to sign and ratify the convention.

Violence against women is not random. It is violence „directed against a woman because she is a woman or violence that affects women disproportionately" (The Beijing Platform for Action). Therefore it is necessary to assure that adequate and women specific services are in place. WAVE therefore urgently calls upon the Council of Europe, the European Union and each Member State to undertake effective measures to increase the number of safe women’s shelters. Europe must not accept that the economic crisis puts lives, health and freedom of millions of women and their children at risk – all too often deadly risk.

Press Enquiries: Felice Drott | +43/1/544 08 20 37 | felice.drott@wave-network.org

WAVE Country Report 2010, http://www.wave-network.org/start.asp?ID=23519

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