Domestic violence happens in places where its victims should actually feel most safe: in their own home. Domestic violence is a global issue and it mainly affects women and girls. Everywhere. In 2019, 267 women were killed in Germany alone, while a further 542 women survived an attempted murder. Mind you, these numbers represent only those cases that came across law enforcement and made it into the crime statistics. The numbers reflecting reality are estimated to be much higher.
The ongoing Corona-virus pandemic has worsened the situation. With more people bound to their homes, with limited space characterizing their living situation, and the potential to leave and escape minimized due to curfew regulations and lockdowns, the potential for domestic conflicts and aggressions has proliferated. Further, and largely because of the restrictions, it has been significantly more difficult for those affected to reach out for external support. It is often not possible to try and call a counselling centre while your violent partner is at home with you.
Furthermore, shelters for women have to work under tough conditions. Hygiene concepts need to be followed through, even though the spatial conditions are far from ideal. The precarious employment situation depicts even more with illness and quarantine regulations. Many employees work at their limit and beyond.
Violence against women and girls concerns all of us. Especially in these difficult times, it is important that we are all protected and that no one is left behind.
With the Istanbul Convention, we have an important instrument: a binding Pan European agreement that offers coherent standards, and pledges the signing parties to build reliable infrastructure to protect women and counselling institutions. The convention makes it crystal clear that domestic violence should not and is not to be considered as “trivial offence” or “private affair”, but has to be dealt with as a criminal one.
It is, however, evident now that exactly this agreement is being delegitimized and attacked. Poland and Turkey, based on spurious reasons, have threatened to revoke the agreement. The emancipation of women is being stylized to be a threat on national unity, operationalized as a tool to gain support from ultraconservative voter groups, and in order to distract from the struggles associated with their governments.
The announcement is already a disastrous signal to affected women because it sends a clear message to the perpetrators: we will protect you, we support your violence.
These announcements represent a part of a broadly laid out attack on women’s rights in these countries. Authoritarian changes often come at the expense of women’s rights. This is another clear example showing that: the protection of women’s rights are an indicator for democracy. The enforcement of codified rights is the duty of any democratic state under the rule of law. Neglecting them puts democracy at risk. Feminists all over the world are united in fighting against the dismantling of democratic achievements and for universal women’s rights.
It is also worth noting that in most of the countries recognizing the Istanbul Convention, its effective implementation is still incomplete - Germany included. The figures in the German crime statistics only show the tip of the iceberg. They need to be revised and concretised urgently in order to reflect the reality of ongoing violence against women, such that we are able to fight against it accordingly.
Further, Germany does not have enough shelters, and this is so even without restrictions due to the pandemic. It is outrageous that women are turned away in emergency situations due to shelters not having enough capacities or having shut down because of the pandemic.
Women have a fundamental right to be protected! This right needs to be applied and enforced in all countries. Therefore, we are advocating for it across borders. Together, we defend the Istanbul Convention and fight for its enforcement and adherence.
- Poland and Turkey must stay in the Istanbul Convention. The non-compliance of standards for the protection of women and girls needs to have consequences.
- We stand in solidarity with feminist organisations and women who have been fighting bravely and consistently for the implementation and compliance of women’s rights and we demand the EU to actively support them.
- This implies that the EU also joins the Istanbul Convention providing clarification on the manner.
- We need a legally ensured claim to protection for women and girls in all countries.
- Counselling institutions and shelters need to be extended and financially safe. The personnel need to be increased and paid an appropriate living wage. No woman or girl seeking protection must be turned away.
- Shelters must be accessible for all women. Therefore, we need enough space for women that need special support, be it through barrier-free access or translation to facilitate communication.
- The Federal Government must ensure as fast as possible that women and girls affected by violence receive a right of residence on its own, because every woman, regardless of their origin or residence status, has the right to be effectively protected from violence.