Friday, December 03, 2010

Home Sweet Home - Or is it? Media workshop on Domestic Violence at the British Council Freetown Sierra Leone

This week I'm in Freetown Sierra Leone delivering a British Council workshop for Editors and Journalists on Media coverage of Gender Based Violence. One form of Gender based violence is violence in the home - also known as domestic violence. Domestic violence happens everywhere. Throughout Europe, free Media helps human rights and justice make progress on issues which have historically been hidden, ignored or considered too hot to handle. Journalists and editors with privileged access to the public greater even than politicians share a moral and public duty – virtually a Hippocratic oath – to name and shame the perpetrators of this vicious, deeply cowardly crime.

The words of the song ‘Home Sweet Home’ has a hollow ring for the 1 in 4 women across Europe who will experience domestic violence over their lifetime. Domestic Violence, is a gross violation of human rights, global in reach, cutting across every cultural, political, socio-economic, ethnic, religious and educational boundary. Domestic violence is the physical or mental abuse of one partner by another within an intimate or family relationship. This within-the-home violence happens in all kinds of relationships: heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual and transgender. It is the repeated, random and habitual use of intimidation to control a partner. The abuse can be physical, emotional, psychological, financial or sexual.

Domestic violence, particularly from men on women, is rarely a one-off attack. Incidents generally become more frequent and severe over time. Domestic violence is caused by the abuser's desire for power and control, at whatever cost to the victim. Every day in communities across Europe, whether Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist or secular, umpteen thousands, perhaps millions of women are being steadily and repeatedly beaten, raped and trapped in their own homes by those closest to them - their husbands, partners or other family members. It can happen to any woman regardless of age, marital status, class or cultural background. Within the European Union, the unspeakably cowardly so-called honour killings within families are also considered to be domestic violence and covered under the general provisions of penal codes even when not explicitly mentioned. In a few countries the laws have been amended and harmonised to remove obstacles in tackling the honour killings issue.

The first modern women’s shelter was established in Chiswick, England, in 1971 by Erin Pizzey, author of the Pelican paperback ‘Scream Quietly or the Neighbours Will Hear’. The Chiswick Refuge developed out of an Advice Centre for women and their children as a safe place for women fleeing from violence in the home. Since then, the movement for shelters has grown but it is now more than twenty years ago, in 1986, that the European Parliament’s Committee on Women’s Rights and Equal Opportunities recommended one shelter should be available for every 10,000 people in the population.
In countries like Germany, Italy, the UK, Spain and France alone, this would mean a national average of more than six thousand shelters.

In 1995 at the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, all the then fifteen Member States of the European Union made commitments to address the issue of violence against women. They also agreed that together as the European Union, they shared responsibility for this issue and correspondingly would develop European strategies to combat violence against women.
At the global level, the UN 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action state:

‘Violence against women is a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of women's full advancement. Violence against women throughout the life cycle derives essentially from cultural patterns, in particular the harmful effects of certain traditional or customary practices and all acts of extremism linked to race, sex, language or religion that perpetrate the lower status accorded to women in the family, the workplace, the community and society. Violence against women is exacerbated by social pressures, notably the shame of denouncing certain acts that have been perpetrated against women; women's lack of access to legal information, aid or protection; the lack of laws that effectively prohibit violence against women; failure to reform existing laws; inadequate efforts on the part of public authorities to promote awareness of and enforce existing laws; and the absence of educational and other means to address the causes and consequences of violence.’

A lack of responsible media coverage reinforces in the public and political worlds a ‘traditional’ response that Domestic Violence is a fact of life rather than a crime.
When journalists and editors become inured or even bored with these betrayals of human dignity and human rights, their silence sends a message: violence in the household
is still accepted and acceptable – a ‘normal part of family life’.
©copyright December 2010 Lesley Abdela


Below are further Links and Further sources of information

There are plenty of sources of information for Media wanting to cover Domestic Violence, starting with
List of Contact Parliamentarians appointed by national parliaments involved in the parliamentary dimension of the Council of Europe campaign to combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence (2006–2008) Vienna, 30 April 2008 - MEPs and leaders of non-governmental organizations came together as part of the Council of Europe‘s ‘Stop Domestic Violence Against Women initiative’
The event was organised jointly by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and the Austrian Parliament. They produced ‘The Vienna Declaration from Final Conference of the Parliamentary Dimension of the Council of Europe Campaign to Combat Violence against Women, including Domestic Violence’:

1. We reaffirm the commitment of the national parliaments of the Council of Europe Member States and the parliaments enjoying observer status with the Parliamentary Assembly to combating violence against women, including domestic violence and to taking all the necessary measures to ensure that victims are protected, perpetrators are punished and this human rights violation is prevented.

2. Accordingly, we invite the parliaments of the Member States to continue the work of adopting and/or supervising the application of laws to combat domestic violence against women or, at least, to adopt and/or supervise the application of the seven key measures set out by the Parliamentary Assembly in Resolution 1582 (2007).

3. We invite the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) and national

parliaments to continue networking with parliamentarians from the 47 member states involved in action to combat violence against women and to further involve men in this action. We commit ourselves to continue monitoring measures taken at national level, report back to PACE, and, as appropriate, give impetus to further steps needed.

4. We invite the Council of Europe to draw up a European Framework Convention to combat violence against women, including domestic violence and to involve parliamentarians and NGOs in the drafting process. This instrument should take account of the specific aspects linked to equality between women and men and be designed to protect victims, punish perpetrators and prevent this human rights violation.

Combating Violence Against Women, Prof. Dr. Carol Hagemann-White, Judith Katenbrink, and Heike Rabe, Equality Division of the Directorate General of Human Rights of the Council of Europe (2006). (PDF, 68 pages).

This report examines the measures and actions taken by the Council of Europe Member States to combat violence against women, including an examination of their monitoring processes and recommendations. It also includes linking domestic violence with immigration law, as well as linking punishment for domestic violence perpetrators to child contact regulation.

The violence against women directory of WAVE gives contacts of over 4000 women's help organizations in 46 countries of Europe, as well as information on research, international documents and the legal situation in each country. You can contact the WAVE- Network & European Information Center Against Violence directly or one of WAVE-focal points in 46 countries.

The Stop Violence Against Women website (STOPVAW) - a forum for information, advocacy and change. The Advocates for Human Rights developed this website as a tool for the promotion of women's human rights in countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the former Soviet Union (FSU). STOPVAW was developed with support from and in consultation with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the Open Society Institute's Network Women's Program. STOPVAW provides women's rights advocates with information and advocacy tools focused on ending the most endemic forms of violence against women in the region. Europeans And Their Views On Domestic Violence Against Women - European Commission survey results

The European Women’s Lobby Policy Action Centre on Violence Against Women acts as a central co-coordinating point for information, studies, research, and exchange of models of good practice across the Members States, and above all lobbies for political action to address issues of male violence against women at European level.

The European Women’s Lobby and its member organisations mobilise for the 16 days of activism against Violence against Women - starting on the International Day against Violence against Women, every 25 November, ending on International Human Rights Day, 10th December. or contact

Nations Population Fund


Academy-Award winning actress and UNIFEM Goodwill Ambassador Nicole Kidman presented an internet
petition with over 5 million signatures from men and women
to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during a ceremony at UN Headquarters on 25 November 2008. The petition is part of The UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) Say NO to Violence against Women global awareness-raising campaign calling on governments to make ending violence against women a top priority.

Global Statistics from AMNESTY

At least one out of every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused in her lifetime, according to a study based on 50 surveys from around the world

In the USA, women accounted for 85% of the victims of domestic violence in 1999 (671,110 compared to 120,100 men), according to the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women.

The Russian Government estimates 14,000 women were killed by their partners or relatives in 1999, yet the country still has no law specifically addressing domestic violence.

The World Health Organisation has reported that up to 70% of female murder victims are killed by their male partners.

In 1996 Professor Elizabeth Stanko estimated the cost of providing services to women and children facing domestic violence in one London borough to be about £90 per year per household and the total cost for Greater London to be £276 million per year.

Relevant human rights law

The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted in 1979 by the UN General Assembly, defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination.

The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) promotes gender equality, equal visibility, empowerment and participation of both sexes in all spheres of public and private life.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) released the Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages for ratification in 1962.

The 1990 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) ensures that signatory governments have a responsibility to take all available measures.

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