Symbiosis-School of Political Studies affiliated to the Council of Europe Network of Schools organised in Athens a two-day seminar, from 11 to 12 December 2019, on ‘Addressing Gender-Based Violence.
The themes discussed drew from the following policy priorities:
Combating Gender Stereotypes and Sexism
Gender stereotyping presents a serious obstacle to the achievement of real gender equality and feeds into gender discrimination. Gender stereotypes are preconceived ideas whereby males and females are arbitrarily assigned characteristics and roles determined and limited by their sex. Sex stereotyping can limit the development of the natural talents and abilities of boys and girls, women and men, their educational and professional experiences as well as life opportunities in general. Stereotypes about women both result from and are the cause of deeply engrained attitudes, values, norms and prejudices against women. They are used to justify and maintain the historical relations of power of men over women as well as sexist attitudes which are holding back the advancement of women.
Preventing and Combating Violence against Women, with a focus on Migrant and refugee women and girls
Violence against women is the most common violation of women’s human rights in Europe, but progress with policy and legal reform to tackle this phenomenon is slow. The Council of Europe is playing a leading role in preventing and combating all forms of violence against women through ground-breaking standards and awareness-raising activities. Violence against women remains widespread in all member States of the Council of Europe, with devastating consequences for women, societies and economies. Opened for signature in May 2011, the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) is the most far-reaching international treaty to tackle this serious violation of human rights.
Protecting the rights of migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women and girls is a new strategic objective for the Council of Europe’s work to promote gender equality and women’s rights under the Gender Equality Strategy 2018-2023. Many migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women and girls have been exposed to various forms of gender-based violence, either in their country of origin, during the journey to Europe, or upon arrival. Due consideration should be given to their needs and circumstances and gender-responsive measures should be adopted to prevent discrimination, violence, harassment, trafficking and other forms of exploitation and abuse – including in times of crisis and natural disasters. In addition, measures need to be taken to ensure that migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women have access to their human and social rights in relation to individual freedom, employment, housing, health, education, social protection and welfare where applicable; and access to information about their rights and the services available. Council of Europe and other international instruments should serve as a blueprint for all efforts and measures undertaken by member States to protect the human rights of migrant, refugee and asylum-seeking women and girls.
Focus on Men
Fleeing from war and conflict, ensuing displacement, a breakdown of social structures and unfamiliar living environments and requirements challenge traditional gender relations, social norms and ties. This makes refugees vulnerable to further violence and discrimination. Studies show that displaced women and girls have faced multiple forms of violence as a result of conflict, persecution and displacement (UNFPA, 2017). Also, men and boys suffer violence in crisis countries as well as in countries of asylum, especially at the hands of other men. The discussion explored how migration processes and experiences collide with gender norms, especially focusing diverse concepts of masculinity (Connell, 2005; Hearn, 1998). It has been evident that there are variations in attitudes towards gender-based violence across different societies (e.g. Farahani 2008). Differences in religion, ethnic origin or region play a significant part in the perception of gender-based violence (Nayak et al. 2003; Macey, 1999). A significant impact of gender-based violence on individual health and wellbeing, whether as victims, perpetrators, or communities has become evident (WHO, 2013, Hester et al, 2015). To minimise the impact of previous experiences of violence there is a need to develop gender sensitive prevention services and to improve existing services.