Violenza contro le donne: azioni istituzionali

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Semestre di Presidenza Italiana


Programma Operativo Nazionale Sicurezza per lo Sviluppo del Mezzogiorno d’Italia



La rete antiviolenza delle città Urban
Manuel Albano

Commissione per l’ uguaglianza e i diritti delle donne

Madame Chairperson

Dear Colleagues from table

Ladies and gentlemen,

The fact that we are gathered here, at Catania, is of great European significance and I would like to start by thanking the host authorities and the department of Equal Opportunities the effort of bringing together representatives from so many different countries, to discuss Violence Against Women, and the different Institutional Actions that are being taken all over Europe.

It is my great pleasure to be here on behalf of the President of the Commission for Equality and Women’s Rights Mrs Maria Amelia Paiva.
We recognise that most of the achievements fulfilled in the last decades in the area of equal opportunities are greatly an outcome of the permanent work developed by the several International and European Bodies that by means of Conventions, Recommendations, Declarations and reports have contributed to bring this subject to the top of the international political agenda.

I shall now give you some information on the Portuguese itinerary on this subject. Equality between women and men is a fundamental principle of the Portuguese Constitution since 1976. The revision of the Constitution in 1997 reinforces this principle considering being among the fundamental tasks of the State to promote equality between women and men.

The establishment of democracy in 1974, led to deep changes in legislation, namely of the one having impact on equality. Nevertheless neither the constitutional equality, nor the legal framework deriving from it has succeeded to make us reach substantive equality. The three last decades have been marked by deep efforts to improve women’s situation and notable progresses have been accomplished. Women conquered juridical autonomy and walk progressively towards achieving economic autonomy.
Nevertheless, the progresses achieved in some areas have been slow. Like in many other countries, the formal equality doesn’t always correspond to a de facto equality. A strong link remains between women’s biological function and the way gender social roles are divided, originating discrimination in personal, professional and social life.
From there derive, largely, the significant differences subsisting between women and men in fundamental areas. Women are the majority of unemployed; they are still frequently the sole responsible for the care and assistance given to children, to the elderly and dependent at large; they have lower incomes; they own lesser properties and work more hours every day, taking into account family and domestic work, and that prevents them often to access to other areas of participation. They are more exposed to violence and sexual exploitation. They are more affected by poverty. Inequality in women’s and men’s access to participation and to political, economical, social and cultural decision making remains a reality. These inequalities are contrary to the principle of democracy, which presuppose that each citizen participate actively in all the spheres of political and public life.
The promotion of equality between women and men is part of the promotion of Human Rights, which include the right to participate, fully, as equal partners in all the scopes of life.
In its Program in the field of Gender Equality, the Government elected in March 2002 reaffirms this principle stating that “the elimination of gender discrimination and the building of equality between women and men assumes a fundamental importance for the promotion and protection of Human Rights and for the equality and deepening of democracy”.
Portugal has achieved progresses in what concerns the prevention and the combat of violence against women. For that, account, among others, the implementation of several initiatives by the Commission for Equality and Women’s Rights, such as the production of studies, the creation, in 1998, by the same Commission, of a national emergency hotline to provide victims of domestic violence with legal information on the subject, open since May 2000, the existence of an office to which women who are victims of violence can appeal directly for help, the awareness raising and training seminars aimed at security forces. The adoption of legislation to support non-governmental women’s organisations, including associations involved in combating violence, and legislation adopted in August 1999 on the setting up of public shelters and centres for women who are victims of violence. The amendment of the Code of Criminal Procedure in 1998 for baring the assailant from family home, which public prosecutors can apply whenever there is justification for doing so. A National Plan against domestic Violence, approved in June 1999, has undergone its first evaluation and a second National Plan Against Domestic Violence, have been approved in July 2003
During the last decade, international organizations are recognizing that violence against women contravenes women’s basic rights (UN international conference, Vienna, 1993) and an essential factor in health deterioration, responsible for one of every five life days lost by women (WHO and world bank). The Platform For Action adopted at the IV world conference on Women, in Beijing, 1995, and the Beijing + 5 in 2000, asks governments to take combined measures in order to prevent and eradicate violence against women.

In 1997, The European Commission also included violence within the political program of EEC, starting a campaign to make people conscious, in favour of an attitude of “zero tolerance”, promoting preventive measures, too.

The UN population report was devoted to violence against women in the year 2000. This report states that “in spite of the deep changes taken place during the 20Th Century, discrimination and violence against women are still firmly anchored in culture all over the world”. The UN study shows that several cultures tolerate or forgive violence against women to a certain extent. Among the facts that cause masculine violence against women all over the world, disobedience to husband, refusal to have sex, not having a meal ready on time or leaving without permission, are quoted.

Stereotypes and wrong ideas about maltreatment make excuse for men and make women responsible for the violence they suffer. It is important to become conscious of its existence and our own internalization about these myths, because they are barriers that can become an obstacle for drawing up plans against violence or working with women who are suffering from it.

The most common violence is practised against women. According to the Council of Europe, violence against women in a domestic space is the greatest cause of death and disability in women between 16 to 44 years of age, more than cancer and road accidents and even war.1
This international data if related to the indicators available in Portugal (although indicative and still needing more rigorous confirmation) suggests that every month, more than five women die from direct or indirect reasons related to acts of domestic violence, it gives us a picture of a reality which offends us in our human dignity as people, and in our condition as Portuguese citizens.
However, we are more and more confronted to an increase of situations perpetrated also, against children, the elderly and the more fragile, such as the case of citizens with disabilities. This violence can assume different forms, from abuse and beatings to Sexual abuse, rape, incest, threats, intimidation and house arrest.
We can not ignore, however, that most situations that are the prototypes of Domestic violence are still practised against women by their husband or partner. This type of domestic violence has significant political, social and even economic implications and constitutes a violation of human rights with historic and cultural roots. In its origin lies, therefore, the persistence of flagrant inequalities between women and men.
The Constitution of the Portuguese Republic recommends, in its article 9, paragraph b), amongst the fundamental functions of the State is to “guarantee the rights and fundamental liberties and the respect for the principles of a Democratic Rule of Law”, as well as in paragraph h), to “promote equality between men and women”. The principle of equality (article 13), and the right to personal integrity (article 26), amongst other constitutional provisions, strengthen this responsibility which although constitutionally protected is systematically violated.
A working group including representatives of different ministries more directly related to this area elaborated the II National Plan Against Domestic Violence. It is an ambitious Plan: Both because of the number and type of the measures presented which require, almost all, transversal collaboration between different, public organisations; and also because of the rigorous time frame it proposes to comply with.
The II National Plan Against Domestic Violence wants to change the present situation, emphasising a turning point in the fight without truce on Domestic violence against women.
It is organised in seven main chapters which unfolds in several concrete measures, and whose main object of intervention is the domestic violence practised on women. The XV Constitutional Government bears in mind, as explicited, that situations of domestic violence also includes violence against men, children, elderly people and disabled.
1. Information, Awareness Raising and Prevention

A greater awareness rising from the citizens (women and men) on the issue of domestic violence goes through actions of information and dissemination on their rights and duties. The government is committed in involving all of society in the fight against a public crime which has unacceptable proportions, because the effectiveness of the combat depends on all the Portuguese. Investing in awareness raising and prevention, both with adults as well as with the younger generations, is one of the paths to change the present situation.

  • Determine the progressive integration in the syllabus of all levels of education, in a non-violence perspective, of themes related with human rights, citizenship, equality in the relationships between people of both genders and the protection of more vulnerable people.

  • Incentives and support to the mass media in view as to make documentaries, debates and programs on domestic violence, demonstration of the structural lagging behind preventing the materialisation of a democratic society.

2. Training

The covering of the theme on domestic violence has specificities, which require a careful approach. We need to cope with this problem in a professional way, making available continuous training to all professionals from different areas and elements of civil society, which in their everyday life, cope, with the concrete situations in the forefront.

So that the professionals of today and future generations be prepared to cope, as professionally as possible with this phenomenon, training should assume a double nature and fall upon two types of public-target:

  1. Initial training: awareness raising of the competent entities, namely the universities about the importance of including modules on domestic violence in university courses, and vocational training for the future professionals (men and women) more directly:

  2. Involved in assisting victims of this type of violence and in the creation of an environment favourable to treating seriously this problem (journalists, political science, etc);

  • Continuous and multidisciplinary training, for every target group, in a certain way, which have contact or are involved in assisting and protecting the victims of Domestic Violence, such as magistrates, lawyers, jurists, police agents, health professionals, mass media, social agents, etc.

3. Legislation and its Application

Apart from safeguarding in our legal system since 1976 equal rights between women and men will be the object of a continuous attention which may imply, in certain circumstances, the revision of the law. The judicial power and the police forces are, amongst other indispensable partners of the Government important in guaranteeing the enforcement of the already existing norms. It is to guarantee the physical and moral integrity of women, children, elderly/ and other vulnerable people who are victims of domestic violence.

  • Revision of the system which obtains the proof in the context of domestic violence.

  • Assessment of the possibility of backing up the safety of victims of domestic violence who benefited from the measure of keeping away the abuser. This back up will not exclusively depend on police forces, but for each case, different forms of involving the community will be found, and it is foreseen that there will be the possibility of using electronic means for emergency calls in the case of eminent threats to victims of Domestic violence

4. Victim protection and Social Inclusion

The fight against domestic violence, because of the complexity of the situations that are at its origin will only be successful when society will be based on a different organisational model: We need to act, taking into account, a greater balance in the role played by women and men in society and in the family. Unfortunately, this is a fight that will take many years, which obliges, immediately, to ensure an effective protection of the victims which will contemplate two different moments: assistance in situations of social emergency, which goes through an increasing implementation of a network of shelter houses; and guarantee that the difficult occasion of breaking up puts into perspective a new life project, which is only achieved with an effective social re-integration of the victims and their descendants.

  • Creation of a data base at a national level including all public and private resources, which work in this area. In a second phase, this base will have to accessible on the internet, although with restricted access, maintaining the information updated relative to the occupation of each shelter and respective availabilities.

  • Creation of rehabilitation resources and clinical treatment for the abusers, who voluntarily want to change their behaviour.

5. Research

The growing public visibility, namely in the mass media on Domestic violence is positive. But the Government will only be able to fight with maximum effectiveness what it knows in depth. It is still difficult to understand the whole social and economic dimension of this plague that is why it is important to bridge this gap. The Government will promote sectorial studies; establish privileged ties with the universities and public and private organisations which finance the investigation/research. It is important to obtain concrete data, which allows drawing conclusions and making objective projections.

  • Having as reference the indicators on domestic violence approved by the Council of Ministers of the European Union, in December 2002, it is necessary to adapt and standardise the national indicators, so as to allow knowing and following the evolution of the fight against domestic violence, making feasible, also, the comparison at a national, community and international level.

  • Promotion of studies on human, social and material costs, as well as research projects to identify factors and cultural values which perpetuate the maintenance of the violence cycle in the family

6. Immigrant Women

The numbers of immigrants who live amongst us have a very significant dimension in the whole Portuguese society. From the co-existence of several communities, with very different values and cultural references new problems arise, namely in the area of domestic violence. The government assumed in an explicit form that it will not consent to genital mutilation of women in Portugal, and will act along these lines. In the application of all other measures of this Plan, immigrant women will be considered in equal circumstances as those of Portuguese nationality.

  • Promotion of studies which allow to know in depth the specific problems of domestic violence, that the immigrant communities are subject to, and develop awareness raising actions specifically for those communities.

  • Awareness Raising by direct forms not covered by others considered in this Plan, the immigrant communities for the violation of human rights, which constitute all forms of genital mutilation on women.

7. Valuation

Because the government wants to achieve the best, it is necessary to follow the evolution of this Plan. CIDM will maintain a fundamental role as energiser, during the whole period of it being in force, but in this area nothing will be done without the transversal commitment of the whole Government, public organisations and civil society. To comply with the measures, which have been expressed, it is essential to set up a mechanism that assesses its application.
An Observatory on Domestic Violence will be set up, which will follow and assess continuously the application of this National Plan. It will also collect information and data having in mind the realisation of an annual report which will be presented in December by the Minister in charge, and after to be appraised by the Council of Ministers. It will be integrated by representatives of CIDM, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Social Security and Labour, Ministry of Internal Affair and National Association of Municipalities which work on the elaboration of the Plan or who, in its replacement, be appointed for that effect. CIDM will preside this Observatory which will meet every three months and for which will also be invited to participate in a rotation way, the associations and NGO´s which work in this area.
Thank you very much, for listening me.

1 Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Recommendation 1582 (2002)1 (1)

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