The Conference was organized by the Ministry of Social Policy and Youth of the Republic of Croatia and the Council of Europe as part of its Strategy for the Rights of the Child (2012-2015), “the Monaco Strategy”, which attaches great importance to the efficiency, effectiveness, impact, sustainability and relevance of the actions carried out to meet its objectives in the following strategic areas: 1. promoting child-friendly services and systems; 2. eliminating all forms of violence against children; 3. guaranteeing the rights of children in vulnerable situations; 4. promoting child participation. The Conference marked the mid-way stage of the Strategy and the aim was to assess progress achieved in the first two years of its implementation.
Three main objectives were pursued during the conference. First, the conference took stock of progress achieved within the first two years of implementation of the Strategy, with a view to providing visibility to results achieved, assessing persisting needs and identifying obstacles to the implementation of children’s rights standards as well as ways to overcome them. Second, the conference proposed priority actions for the two remaining years and further explored synergies amongst stakeholders at national and international level, with a view to strengthening the relevance and impact of the various initiatives. Third, the conference helped to identify issues that could lie at the heart of Council of Europe action beyond 2015.
The conference duration was two days, including a high level plenary opening session; plenary discussions, in-depth roundtables and spaces for informal networking and interaction. There were six Roundtables with stake holders discussing the objectives of the Strategy.
The conference gathered around 180 participants including high level representatives from governments, including members of the Council of Europe Network of Focal Points on Children’s Rights, international organisations and human rights mechanisms, NGOs, international experts, professional net-works, parliamentarians, local and regional authorities, Ombudspersons as well as children and young people.
I was originally invited to participate as an EESC Member but was then asked to chair Roundtable 5 which was focusing on Strategic objective 2, namely violence against girls and young women under the age of 18.
Ms. Raluca Popa from the Council of Europe presented the Istanbul Convention as a tool to develop integrated and strategic approaches to prevent and combat violence against girls and women under 18. She quoted the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) recent survey results, which show that one in 10 women has experienced some form of sexual abuse or incident by an adult before the age of 15; at the extreme, 1% of women indicate that they were forced to have sexual intercourse with an adult when they were a child. In 97% of cases of sexual abuse in childhood the perpetrator was male. The FRA survey also shows there are important links between violence against women and violence against children: 1.Experiences of violence in childhood significantly related to the risk of sexual victimization later on. 2.Children are as much as harmed by witnessing violence in the home as by being directly abused themselves.
Ms. Popa also highlighted that the Istanbul Convention introduces specific criminal offences for forms of violence that overwhelmingly affect children, some of them predominantly girls such as: forced marriage and female genital mutilation, Istanbul convention also contains a number of specific provisions to address children’s rights in the context of domestic violence addressing both children that are direct victims and children that are witnessing domestic violence. Measures are taken in the area of: prevention, protection and support, and prosecution of the perpetrators.
Ms. Popa concluded her discussion by highlighting recommendations for actions: 1.There is an immediate need for signature and ratification of the Istanbul Convention by all CoE member states 2.While legal framework is important real change cannot come about without changing the social attitudes to violence against women and girls
Ms. Sue Berelowitz, Deputy children’s commissioner for England presented the “See me, hear me” new framework for child protection. Ms. Berelowitz gave an overview of the Children’s Commissioner’s inquiry into child sexual exploitation in gangs and groups, by addressing the system failings and essential foundations for good practice. She stressed that it is very important that the child best interest is taken into account when dealing with such severe cases of violence and this has to be a top priority, participation of children and young people in prevention activities is essential, educating relationships and support, comprehensive problem profiling of each case is needed, effective information sharing within and between agencies that deal with the problem is also necessary, supervision, support and training of the staff and finally evaluation and review on regular bases.
Third panellist on this roundtable was Ms. Elise Petitpas, Advocacy officer from Amnesty International who gave a presentation regarding the female genital mutilation (FGM) campaign run by Amnesty International. She informed the audience that WHO estimates that around 100 – 140 million woman and girls have been subjected to FGM and an estimated 3 million are at risk each year. This practice is wide spread in Middle East and in some parts of Asia and Latin America. The exact number of women and girls that have suffered FGM living in Europe is still unknown, but the EU Parliament estimates that around 500 000 have undergone FGM, with another 180 000 women and girls are at risk of being subjected to this practice each year. During this session Ms. Petitpas gave historical background on why this practice is performed in some parts of the world and how this practice violates woman’s basic human rights. Main problem in the world on developing efficient tools for fighting FGM is the absence of reliable data. EU have made some efforts to get information about this practice trough the European Union Agency for fundamental Rights and European Institute for Gender Equality. In addition to those agencies Eurostat functions as a statistical office of the EU with the single mission to provide the EU with European level statistics that will enable comparisons between the member states and the regions. Ms. Petitpas also gave information of the FGM European campaign that urges EU institutions in accordance with the 2009 European Parliament resolution on FGM, to request the following from FRA: include FGM in the identification of the indicators for service providers as relevant to woman and children’s rights. Explore practices and measures to aim to improve the access to health for female asylum seekers living with FGM.
The campaign urges the EU institutions in accordance with the 2009 European Parliament Resolution on FGM to request from the EIGE to develop and establish human rights based methodological tools that can be used in EU wide approach to quantitative and qualitative data collection on FGM. It also urges the EU institutions to request the following from Eurostat – to coordinate and support development of national surveys to assess FGM prevalence in EU. Listening to survivors themselves and integrating the voices of young women is also very important.
Saida Gicic from CURE Foundation in Bosnia and Herzegovina explained that CURE is a foundation that advocates for gender equal and for society without patriarchal norms which does not tolerate violence and discrimination and where woman are recognized as founders and responsible bearers of positive social changes and equally take part in decision – making processes in the society. Ms. Gicic presented the program that CURE foundation has implemented in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Serbia – “Young women – agents of positive change”. This program included trainings, study visits, small grants for participants of the project, regional conference for young woman/new generation of activists and feminists. The aim of the project trainings and other activates was to empower and educate young women so they get motivated and active in their local communities in regards to women’s human rights, prevention of violence against women,. With funding from UN Women, the project granted 9 grants to participants form 3 countries. Women organized street actions, round tables, trainings, etc. in their local communities on the topic of women’s human rights.
In conclusion from the Conference, the EU Commission will be holding a 12 week consultation and it is the request of the NGOs working in the field of child protection and Maria Herzog, former EESC member and UN Eurochild representative, for the EESC to have a hearing to put forward not only current recommendations but also those post 2015.
During the Conference I was asked to do a video clip for Council of Europe on behalf of the EESC in order to promote and work and commitment of Europe in combating every form of violence against women and children,
This was a great opportunity for me to transfer my experiences as a Member of the EESC and present the efforts of the Institution in forming the necessary legal framework to combat violence against women and children.
Please do not hesitate to contact me for any further information email@example.com.
Thank you for this great opportunity to introduce the EESC’s initiatives the field of Violence against Women and Children.