2014, June 15

The UN Convention on Elimination against All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and its Optional Protocol are the most important international human rights treaties that define the main standards for women’s rights. Member countries that have ratified the Convention are obliged to abide by them.

Another two key international documents in the field of women’s rights are the UN Declaration of Violence Against Women (1993) and the so-called Beijing Declaration and Action Platform (1995), which define combating violence against women as one of the twelve most important fields in gender equality. The latter documents are of a recommendational nature.

A majority of European countries have ratified the UN Convention and its Optional Protocol. That is why all of the more significant initiatives in entrenching women’s rights in Europe take place within the framework of the UN Convention and the other two international documents mentioned earlier. It is obvious that today, in most European countries, we have a new generation of men and women that have been brought up in the tradition of gender equality and women’s rights.

However, violence against women remains one of the most terrible forms of discrimination of women. Violence as a form of discrimination has been included in the UN Convention on Elimination against All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the Convention’s General Recommendation No 19. However the UN Convention does not feature a separate definition of gender-based violence. That is, in the UN Convention, violence against women is not viewed as violence experienced based on the fact that the victim is a woman.

This lack of the definition in the UN Convention is being resolved by different global regions with the certification of specialized documents. In 1994, Organization of American States passed the the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (the Belem Do Para Convention). In 2003 the African Union passed the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’Rightson the Rightsof Women, which unambiguously protects women against their aggressors both in public and in a domestic environment. Both conventions identify violence against women as an infringement of human rights. The South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation has also passed the Dhaka Declaration that is meant to eliminate violence against women in South Asia.

The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence (2011) defines violence against women as an infringement of human rights and as a form of discrimination against women. So violence against women is treated here as a crime. Countries that have signed and ratified this Convention are obliged to fight against all forms of violence against women. They also promise to create an environment that does not breed aggression. As in the mentioned regional documents, the Council of Europe Convention states that only by ensuring gender equality can the road to aggression against women be blocked. Stopping violence demands more than just good intentions, but necessitates the coordination of actions on a national, regional and international level. The 26 European countries that have signed this Convention so far, and in doing so express this understanding and determination to work together.

Dalia Leinartė