Human Rights Commissioner Calls For Treaty on Violence against Women
Monday, January 7, 2008 9:31 PM

Swedish diplomat and current Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, Thomas Hammarberg, is calling upon the international community to create a comprehensive international treaty on violence against women.  Hammarberg cites the lack of commitment to initiatives that address domestic violence issues from leading European politicians, mostly men, with whom he has met during his work as a human rights activist.  Many of these leaders argue that domestic violence is not a problem in their country, a declaration Hammarberg vehemently refutes.

Hammarberg stressed the effectiveness of shelters for abused women in preventing worse tragedies.  While he noted that shelters are often run by engaged NGOs, he emphasized the responsibility of authorities to assist and cooperate, as well as to complement these activities with other protective and social measures.  Hammarberg also stressed the importance of providing gender sensitivity training for hotlines, telephone help services and health clinics, as they are often the first services to come into contact with the victims of violence.  It is also important to have clear referral systems in place to link these services to other support sectors.

Another concern of Hammarberg was victim after-care.  He believes it is essential that legal measures should be set in place to exclude offenders from the family home to avoid the risk of repetition.  Hammarberg also called for special attention to be given to those women most at risk, particularly vulnerable migrants. When a migrant woman whose resident status is dependent on her husband’s status is subjected to domestic violence, she will be unlikely to report the incident to the police for fear of deportation.

Finally, Hammarberg cites a positive initiative begun by Austria, in which intervention centers combine comprehensive police, judicial, social and health support in order that victims avoid having to go from one institution to the next.  He calls for other countries to develop this system as well.

A broad policy framework in the form of a convention or a protocol with binding standards should include measures against domestic violence.   Hammarberg affirms that the purpose of this would be to encourage national reforms, and thereby also to contribute to necessary changes in attitude.

Compiled from: "An International or European Treaty is Needed for the Protection of Women Against Violence," Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe: Commissioner for Human Rights, 7 January 2008.