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 Full text 
Monday, 11 September 2017 - Strasbourg Revised edition

EU accession to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (debate)

  Anna Maria Corazza Bildt, rapporteur. – Madam President, today many women and girls live in fear and despair, bleeding in body and mind, hurt and crushed by shame. Today with our report we give a voice to the millions of women whose lives are devastated by violence, saying loud and clear: You are not alone. We care.

We also send a message of support to all those committed to protect women and girls – authorities, civil society – and we pay tribute to their work and tell them that the aim, with the accession of the Istanbul Convention, of the European Union is to give them more tools, a better legal framework to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence, and protect victims. Violence against women is a terrible crime and should be punished as such.

In Europe today, at home, women continue to be beaten, and often in front of their children. In public places women risk being harassed and raped going to a swimming pool, a music festival, a beach, and more and more young women are harassed and persecuted on the net. On social media it has become a global phenomenon. I think about Tiziana, a young woman who committed suicide because of spreading her intimate videos by her ex-boyfriend, and Maria Rashidi, disfigured with acid by her husband, who, like Lucia, had the courage to denounce him and became a women’s rights activists.

Many teenagers are raped: too drunk to defend themselves, with friends taking videos and publishing them on social media, thinking it is funny. It is new forms of violence – revenge pornography, sex extortion, voyeurism. Violence is now trivialised and victims are mocked. Freedom from violence, dear colleagues, is a fundamental right, and the Istanbul Convention is the first and only international legally-binding act that criminalises violence against women and recognises gender-based violence as a breach of human rights and a form of discrimination. Let us be clear: we are talking about men’s violence against women out of jealousy, revenge, frustration, alcohol. Often they cannot accept women to be strong, independent, modern, making their own choices and daring to live them. Often the culture clash for families coming from other countries and young women who just want to live like their schoolmates, in a dress, in a western way of living is too strong for their own families to accept. Is there really any honour in killing a girl just because she has decided to take off her scarf? It happened in Sweden two weeks ago. She thought she was in Europe and she could be free. Violence against women is too often tolerated and seen as a private issue, and we need to ensure more convictions of perpetrators.

The Convention provides for strict sanctions to combat impunity and extend measures to protect victims, such as restraining orders, shelters, medical and psychological assistance, prevention measures, training of officials, education programmes, responsible media and combating stereotypes. It recognises that, in order to eradicate violence against women, we need to improve equality between women and men, change mentality, combat sexism, and empower women. It is time to shift the guilt from the victim to the perpetrator. Women must feel that it is not worth going through the painful process of telling the terrible stories, the shame, the embarrassment unless there is a credible judicial follow-up.

Member States have to criminalise by law gender-based violence and also ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice. I visited shelters in Sweden, Italy, Malta, Greece, and many dedicated people who help women victims. More resources have to be given to them. I would like to finish by saying that I welcome the historical step forward of the EU’s signing of the Istanbul Convention in May this year. Now all the Member States need to ratify it and implement it, and we have to continue to join forces also in this Parliament.

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