NGO Statement to the Committee against Torture on Domestic Violence in Greece
Thursday, December 2, 2004 9:20 AM

  • Centre for Research and Action on Peace (KEDE)
  • Coordinated Organizations and Communities for Roma Human Rights in Greece
  • Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM)
  • Minority Rights Group - Greece (MRG-G)
  • Support Center for Children and Family - Social & Education Action
  • World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT)

19 November 2004

Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee,

I am Myrto Lemou, representing the "Social and Educational Action Center for the Support of Children and Family." I will address domestic violence -Item 22 in your List of Issues on Greece.

Our NGO serves 450 families of the socially excluded minority of Muslim Roma (both Romani- and Turkish-speaking) who have migrated from Thrace and live in degraded neighborhoods in the center of Athens. To a lesser extent we also serve Albanian Roma and other economic migrants of that area.

As an example, we witness girls as young as 13 to 16 years-old, who become easily victims of domestic violence. Just in the first half of 2004, we have registered 40 victims of domestic violence. These girls are often forced to get married so as to satisfy the financial interests of their families. Psychological and physical violence are both used to this end, which makes the girls more easily controlled by their highly conservative society. Then, they end up choosing abortion whenever possible, since even this choice is considered to be a right of the husband up to, in one case, 20 abortions. Having had 5 children at the age of 18, they also find a solution in sedatives and anti-depressing pills as a way out of domestic violence. Part of their conjugal duties is to learn how to tolerate violence from their husbands for "disciplinary" purposes. These husbands are often boys as young as 16- who are also trying to find their way from childhood to adulthood.

This is a perhaps extreme case that is though rendered possible by the fact that there is no law to explicitly prohibit domestic violence. Marital rape is not a crime. The General Secretariat on Gender Equality (GSGE), an independent state agency, notes that the reported incidence of violence against women is low, while the actual incidence is high. Moreover, it estimates that only 6 to 10 percent of the victims contact the police and only a small fraction of those cases ever reach trial. Most Greek women suffering from abuse do not press charges for the following reasons: apart from the heaviness of the judicial system regarding family violence (on average, a criminal case takes 3-5 years for complete adjudication), there is an extremely limited infrastructure for the empowerment and psychological and legal support of victims of family violence. The GSGE also believes that police tend to discourage women from pursuing domestic violence charges and instead encourage them to undertake reconciliation efforts; and that the courts are lenient when dealing with domestic violence cases.

On the other hand, recently released Panteion University research (2004) on child abuse, showed that 60% of Greeks knew of an incident of child abuse, three quarters of which were cases of corporal punishment. Greek law does not contain any provisions explicitly prohibiting corporal punishment of children at home.

GSGE and NGOs have been pushing for years for the introduction of comprehensive legislation on domestic violence. Greece has stated such an intention before CEDAW as far back as 2002, but the draft law has to this day not been tabled to Parliament. CAT should therefore reiterates the recommendations previously made by CEDAW, CRC and CESCR urging Greece to prioritize the adoption of its draft legislation criminalizing domestic violence -including marital rape and corporal punishment- by introducing specific provisions into the criminal code, to strengthen its assistance to victims of domestic violence and marital rape, to sensitize law enforcement and medical personnel, as well as the public at large, for the criminal nature of such acts, and to collect updated statistical data on the number of victims, perpetrators, convictions and the types of sanctions imposed.

Cited from: Balkan Human Rights Listserve, posted 26 November 2004 by Greek Helsinki Monitor.