Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE) urgently appeals that “No women’s shelter shall be closed!” New women’s shelters should be opened daily in Europe, until we meet the minimum standard of providing one women’s shelter place per 10,000 inhabitants!
As a result of the economic crisis, public services most needed for women survivors of violence and their children have experienced drastic funding cuts which affect their ability to provide women with services that empower them to leave an abusive situation, which in some cases can be life-saving. Despite many states recognizing that violence against women is a severe violation of human rights and that its consequences affect society as a whole, and despite numerous international and European treaties signed and ratified aimed at protecting women and children from living with violence, in reality the political will is lacking, including lacking implementation of existing laws and lack of support for life-saving services for women survivors of violence and their children.
The Study The Civic Origins of Progressive Policy Change: Combating Violence against Women in Global Perspective, 1975-2005 was recently released and published in the American Political Science Review.The results of the study support the idea that the involvement and motivation of women’s organisations in recent decades provided momentum for change and was largely responsible for any change that took place, including bringing awareness to the importance of supporting women survivors of violence; drafting, adapting and implementing laws aimed to protect victims, forming partnerships and networks, including with governments to realize actual change and improve the lives of women affected by violence. This momentum must continue if we are to work together and move collectively to create a better society for all, which includes protecting vulnerable groups.
At this point in time, much work remains to be done. In the European Union alone, approximately 20 to 25 per cent of women have suffered male violence during adult life. If all forms of violence against women are taken into account, including psychological violence, around 45 per cent of all women experience violence. This means that in the 27 EU Member States, about 100 million women are estimated to become victims of gender-based violence in their lifetime – and one to two million women are victimised daily (European Commission 2010). European countries are failing to provide women survivors of violence and their children with adequate services that address their specific needs, as this is shown by the serious lack of women’s shelters discovered through data collection for the WAVE country report 2011. Additionally, the current financial crisis has resulted in threats of and closures of women’s shelters all over Europe. This results not only in a decline of the numbers of shelters, but also undermines the minimum requirements and standards that women’s support services are able to provide.
When comparing international recommendations with the real situation it becomes obvious, that political leaders need to be reminded of their self-defined obligations. According to Council of Europe recommendations, every country should guarantee one shelter place for every 10,000 inhabitants. In reality there are only 27,000 shelter places (beds) in Europe and an urgent need to create further 54,000 to comply with the CoE standards.
Violence against women is not random. It is violence „directed against a woman because she is a woman or violence that affects women disproportionately“(The Beijing Platform for Action). Therefore it is necessary to ensure that adequate and women specific services are in place. WAVE therefore urgently calls upon the Council of Europe, the European Union and each Member State to undertake effective measures to increase the number of safe women’s shelters. Europe must not accept that the economic crisis puts lives, health and freedom of millions of women and their children at risk – all too often deadly risk. As of now, 18 countries have signed the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women: United Kingdom, Iceland, Portugal, Spain, France, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Slovakia, Ukraine, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia and Greece; Turkey being the only country that has signed and ratified the Convention.
WAVE’s 2011 Country Report shows that there are 2,349 women´s shelters in the whole of Europe, providing approximately 28,000 shelter places to women and children survivors of violence. According to the minimum standard of one place per 10,000 inhabitants, a total of approximately 82,000 places would be needed in Europe.
There are only 5 countries in Europe (Luxembourg, Norway, Netherlands, Slovenia, and Malta) where the standard of providing one or more than one women’s shelter places per 10,000 inhabitants is fulfilled.
Also, only 503 women’s shelter places are available in the new EU countries for a population of more than 10 million people and one women’s shelter place has to serve a population of almost 188,000 people.
WAVE urgently calls upon the Council of Europe and the European Union as well as the member states to undertake effective measures to increase the number of safe women’s shelters and to not accept that the economic crises should lead to further budget cuts and cause the deterioration of the situation and jeopardize health, live and freedom of hundreds of thousands of women and their children in Europe.(Source: WAVE)