Fighting domestic violence

I AM encouraged to see the consolidated efforts now undertaken in Slovakia to fight violence against women and domestic violence. 

(Source: Sme)

Last year the government introduced a national strategy and an action plan to address this evil. The plan is now being implemented; new counselling centres and shelters for victims are established and information campaigns and measures have been introduced to raise awareness about the problem and to help its victims. Last month an important milestone in this work was reached by the establishment of a counselling and coordination centre to enhance the work for prevention and elimination of violence in line with the recommendations of the Council of Europe (Istanbul Convention).

Domestic and gender-based violence is a violation of fundamental human rights - recognized by all member states of the Council of Europe, and by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Although recognised; it still is a grave problem and a challenge for all European countries, including my own. It cuts across all levels of society in every European country, at huge social and financial costs. Although pervasive, it still is largely invisible and sustained by a culture of silence and shame, and often not reported.

A survey of the 28 EU member countries published by the European Fundamental Rights Agency last spring confirms the high incidence of such violence in European households. An estimated 13 million women in the EU had experienced physical violence in the course of the 12 months prior to the survey. The study also showed that it is not easy to get rid of violence in close relations even if our governments implement good laws and measures. Laws and action plans have to be supported and followed up by all actors of the society; from state to regional, municipal and local, to voluntary and non-governmental organisations and individual citizens. We all have to join hands to fight this evil by providing crisis help, protecting the victims, addressing the causes and consequences of such violence, and minimizing its impact.

Shared challenges in European countries require shared solutions and multilateral cooperation, and that is why fighting domestic and gender-based violence has been, and is, an important programme area within our Norway grants in all beneficiary countries, so also here in Slovakia. In the grant scheme for 2009-2014 more than 8 million euro is earmarked for support for a specific program on combatting domestic and gender-based violence in Slovakia, in addition to financial support provided to such projects via the Fund for Non-Governmental Organisations. The aim of the programme is to help create a network of safe houses and counselling centres that can provide easily accessible and qualified services to those in need all over Slovakia. Existing centres will be reinforced and new centres and shelters made, alongside activities for awareness raising, education and training.

The activities will be coordinated and supervised by the Coordination Centre and I trust that the enhanced capacity and new measures implemented will be effective in addressing the degrading and painful situation that violated and abused women and girls in different parts of the country are experiencing.

We all agree that these human rights abuses have to stop. For this to happen; we do not only need the appropriate institutions and legal frameworks, we need the active involvement of the public as well as private institutions and people. We need awareness raising and advocacy. We need to encourage women to tell their stories about abuse and violence. We need to protect them and help them to cope with the effects of such violence, and we need to confront the perpetrators with legal actions.

Pooling of expertise and exchange of knowledge is instrumental in tackling these challenges. I am therefore pleased that there is close cooperation between Slovak and Norwegian institutions in this important programme and I am confident that we, with our combined efforts, will improve the situation and be able to provide better services to the victims.  

By Inga Magistad, the Ambassador of Norway to Slovakia

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