Seven women's organisations have backed the first national information campaign aimed at drawing attention to the problem of domestic violence .
The Fifth Woman Initiative will include lectures, meetings with legislators and national advertising events. Its timing is symbolic; it started November 25, the international day marking violence against women, and ends December 10, the international day of human rights.
"Global statistics show that every fifth woman in the world has experienced domestic violence. In Slovakia such statistics are missing, as if the problem didn't even exist," said Monika Grochová from the Košice-based Fenestra group which runs a crisis centre helping female and child victims of domestic violence.
"This campaign is a first step to break the silence and to raise public awareness of this serious social issue," she added.
Although Eva Sopková, an activist from the Humenné-based Pro Familia organisation, said that several women's groups and non-governmental organisations had started to jointly and publicly address the problem in 1998, the issue remains a marginal and even taboo subject in Slovakia.
"Sensitivity towards this problem is very low, and often courts, prosecutors, police, as well as social workers are rather ignorant about it. Sometimes investigators are more sensitive to the rights of offenders than to those of victims," Sopková said
To change the country's poor legislation in this field women's organisations drew up a list of legislative proposals which they aim to submit for parliamentary discussion in the coming months through the parliamentary women's committee
"The need to address the issue is a global one," said Dianne Masson Yensen from the Canadian technical mission which, along with the Open Society Foundation, supported the campaign financially.
Yensen added: "We have to act because women who are victims of violence tend to lose self-respect, and children who witness violence in their homes may become the beaters of tomorrow."
3. Dec 2001 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová