GREEK HELSINKI MONITOR (GHM)
MINORITY RIGHTS GROUP – GREECE (MRG-G)
Address: P.O. Box 60820, 15304 Glyka Nera
Telephone: (+3) 010.347.22.59. Fax: (+3) 010.601.87.60.
5 August 2002
TOPIC: OMCT, GHM AND MRG-G EXPRESS CONCERN REGARDING GENDER DISCRIMINATION AND VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN GREECE BEFORE THE UN COMMITTEE ON THE ELIMINATION OF DISCRIMINATION AGAINST WOMEN
The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), Greek Helsinki Monitor (GHM) and Minority Rights Group-Greece (MRG-G) have highlighted serious concerns regarding gender discrimination and violence against women in Greece in two joint reports submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) which will examine Greece’s compliance in its Exceptional Session starting today in New York. GHM and MRG-G’s “Parallel Report on Greece’s Compliance with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women” (http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/bhr/english/organizations/ghm_mrgg_cedaw.rtf) supplemented the report submitted by OMCT and GHM on “Violence against Women in Greece” (http://www.greekhelsinki.gr/bhr/english/organizations/ghm_omct_cedaw.doc).
In the UN’s “Human Development Report 2000: Human Rights and Human Development” Greece is ranked 25th (out of 174 states) on the basis of the Human Development Index (HDI) as well as the Gender-related Development Index (GDI). However, Greece is ranked only 49th on the basis of the Gender-Empowerment Measure (GEM). Among the top 46 countries (considered to have a high level of human development) the only other ones with such a substantial discrepancy between the overall HDI rank and the GEM one are Japan (9th and 41st respectively) and the Republic of Korea (31st and 63rd respectively). Indeed, in Greece, women may have as many opportunities as men to educate themselves and achieve high-level qualification, but they are denied access to top administrative positions especially in the state sector and even more in public offices.
Moreover, there still exist gender discriminating legislative provisions. Most characteristic of the prevailing mentality in Greek society is the provision voted in 1999 in parliament unopposed by any party or even any woman deputy, that limits recruitment of women by law enforcement agencies only to secondary administrative positions. It states that “… the mission of Hellenic Police, … to be carried out demand increased levels of muscular strength, speed, and endurance, traits which common logic and experience say that, because of biological specificities, men have.”
The parallel report highlights also cases of gender discrimination in alimony matters, tax legislation, and in hiring by other state agencies. It also documents sexist portrayals of women, serving to cultivate patriarchal attitudes in children, in textbooks. Indicative of the stereotypes is the current media campaign aiming at raising women’s participation as candidates in the local administration elections. One advertisement features a young smiling woman talking about “Dimos,” which means “municipality” in Greek but is also a Greek man’s name. The woman says, “Me, with Dimos? Well, yes!” And below it, the line: “A strong relationship begins in October. Live it!” Local administration is presented as a man that women are encouraged to have a relationship with. Another slogan featured in the informative campaign is “Scent of a Woman.” The advertisement reads, “Prejudices, wrong estimations, and wrong mentalities deprive public life from the ‘female perspective’— from fantasy, sensitivity, creativity, effectiveness, which characterize the female way of thinking and acting. Decisions about issues regarding local societies, the neighborhood and the city, which define the quality of our every-day life, do not go through the female ‘filter.’”
Furthermore, women are usually employed in jobs with little power or responsibility and are paid less than men. In 1999, Greek women’s pay amounted to only 76% of Greek men’s. Women make up only 40% of the workforce while they are 52% of the population. Moreover, unemployment is 7% among men and 16% among women. In the public sector, women make up only 42% of the civil servants, but only 30% of general directors and 35% of directors.
One consequence of the absence of mandatory health and sex education at school is that Greek women use abortion as a contraceptive: hence, the abortion rate in Greece is one of the highest in the world, with the annual number of terminated pregnancies exceeding 250,000 -more than double of that of births. A growing concern is also the large number of caesarian births performed in Greece, 42% of all births, as opposed to the World Health Organization’s acceptable standard of 15%, above which one can there is generalized medical malpractice.
Moreover, on the basis of an ill-conceived interpretation of the Treaty of Lausanne, Greece tolerates the use of Sharia (Islamic law) for the Muslim women of Thrace by the state-appointed muftis, who are also recognized as judges in family law matters. Muslim women are entitled to only half of their husband’s inheritance; may see their husband take another wife, as long as they “agree”, since polygamy is allowed; divorces are only issued by men against the women, usually without the women even being summoned; they receive alimony only for 100 days and may have custody of their children only until the age of seven (boys) or age nine (girls), which then passes automatically to the father or grandfather –if not granted to them from the beginning.
Roma women, on the other hand, usually marry while still adolescent, and virginity is considered a prerequisite. Knowledge and/or use of contraceptives are extremely rare. The illiteracy rate among Roma women is extremely high, since they are the first to leave school at marriage. Roma women face racial discrimination in their encounters with all public authorities, including public hospitals. No data exists on the extent of violence that Roma women suffer within their community.
Domestic violence is widespread in Greece, among all social or ethnic groups; however, there is no legislation in place that specifically protects women against violence in their homes or takes into account the specific relationship and the inter-dependence that exist between the victim and the perpetrator. Another matter of serious concern is the fact that marital rape is not considered a crime under the Greek Penal Law. In addition to the lack of effective legislation in place, the fact that the police and other law enforcement personnel view domestic violence as a private matter has contributed to the large degree of impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of acts of domestic violence.
An additional area of grave concern is the enormous increase of trafficking in women and girls as young as 12 years old in Greece, predominantly for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Also in this domain the government of Greece has failed to adopt comprehensive legislation criminalizing the trafficking of persons, punishing its perpetrators, including corrupt public officials, and protecting its victims. Victims of trafficking continue to be treated as criminals and are detained in prison pending deportation for working illegally in Greece. Consequently, victims of trafficking are often afraid to file complaints with the Greek authorities, which subsequently leads to the fact they remain trapped in abusive situations and the perpetrators go unpunished.
There is also concern at prison conditions for women in Greece. There is only one prison for women and this prison is overcrowded and unsanitary and diseases such as hepatitis are prevalent. There is a lack of medical care and many women are addicted to drugs. As there is only one prison for women, women and girls are detained in the same facility. Moreover, women and men are held together in the same police establishments where women, men and children have to share the same facilities. There is a serious shortage of female police and prison staff.
On 4 and 6 June 2002, members of GHM visited the Amygdaleza detention centre for foreign women awaiting deportation. There were approximately 65 women detained awaiting deportation, amongst them many under-age girls.
One of the women was Elena Mochkova who was married for 7 years with a Greek Russian and has an 11year-old child in a Greek school. She is detained awaiting deportation but has not been informed as to the reason for her deportation order. She reported having been subjected to serious violence whilst being held in the Salonika Police Department responsible for transferring detainees. While waiting to be transferred to Athens, she asked a young police officer to make a telephone call; he used degrading language; she answered; he punched her in the ear, which started to bleed. No one offered her medical assistance and she was too afraid to ask.
Another woman, Frida, born in 1981, told GHM that she left Nigeria when her village was burnt down and her family killed during tribal wars. She has come to Greece by land, with a Nigerian man, who demanded that she have sex with him when they reached Turkey. When she refused, he gang-raped her along with 3 other men. When they reached Salonika he abandoned her. She managed to reach Athens where she lived with another Nigerian woman, who after a while suggested that Frida start prostituting herself through an agency that found her customers. One customer turned out to be a policeman who arrested her and took her to the Police Directorate at Alexandra’s avenue. There, on the 11th floor, four Greek policemen forced her to take off her clothes leaving her in her underwear and questioned her in degrading language. Because she was not responding, they also took off her underwear by force and continued the questioning. Frida said that she can identify the policemen who sexually harassed her, however, she is afraid and does not want to file an official complaint. Frida has applied for political asylum, and on June 6 she went through the first interview. She mentioned to the Committee the rape incident, but not the sexual harassment by the policemen.
OMCT, GHM and MRG-G are urging the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to raise these concerns with the Greek authorities.
Balkan Human Rights Web Pages: http://www.greekhelsinki.gr
The Balkan Human Rights List: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/balkanhr
The Greek Human Rights List: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/greekhr
Center of Documentation and Information on Minorities in Europe – Southeast Europe: http://www.cedime.net
Panayote Dimitras, Orestis Georgiadis, Dimitrina Petrova, Alan Phillips, Gregory Vallianatos.
International Advisory Committee:
Savvas Agouridis, Teuta Arifi, Ivo Banac
, Vladimir Bilandzic, Marcel Courthiade, Loring Danforth, Fernand de Varennes, Victor-Yves Ghebali, Henri Giordan
, Krassimir Kanev, Will Kymlicka, Magda Opalski, Theodore S. Orlin, Dimitrina Petrova, Alan Phillips, Aaron Rhodes
, Vladimir Solonari, Patrick Thornberry, Stefan Troebst, Boris Tsilevich, Tibor Varady, Marc Weller.
Affiliation to International Organizations:
Consortium of Minority Resources (COMIR), Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN), European Roma Rights Center (ERRC), International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX), International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF), Minority Rights Group International (MRGI), One World Net
, South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), World Organization Against Torture (OMCT).