23 September 2002
Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee
Rapporteur: Mr Michael Hancock, United Kingdom, Liberal, Democratic and Reformers’ Group
I. Conclusions of the committee
1. The report on domestic violence, at least in its draft recommendation, focuses mainly if not exclusively on violence against women within couples. Household violence against men, elderly or disabled persons and children is not dealt with in-depth. It concerns, therefore, marital violence against women although, in reality, violence against women clearly has ramifications for both women and children.
2. Violence (including of a sexual nature) against an adult and against a child should not be compared in the same terms; nor should the same measures and sanctions be recommended. Certain aspects and responses are considered in other reports such as Mr Provera's report on "Sexual exploitation of children: zero tolerance".
3. Consequently, to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings, the title of the report should be altered to include the words "against women". This is the first conclusion of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee. An amendment is necessary.
4. Its second conclusion is that many of the recommendations put forward would benefit from more precise wording so that they could actually be applied and not remain pious hopes. The rapporteur provides a few examples in his explanatory memorandum.
5. The Committee's third conclusion is prompted by concern to respect the values uniting the Council of Europe's member states and their commitment to fundamental human rights; it proposes a radical amendment that would delete recommendation C(vii) calling for the expulsion of immigrant perpetrators of domestic violence.
II. Explanatory memorandum by Mr Hancock
6. One of the main issues neglected in the report is one commonly neglected when considering domestic violence. Although many of the incidences of domestic violence are male against female, there is a substantial amount of adult-child abuse and an increasing number of reported incidents of female against male, male against male and adult against elderly or disabled persons.
7. Indeed the rapporteur has noted that when domestic violence occurs it is often pets that are the first to suffer. Although there is some mention of female against male abuse and recognition of the different types of domestic relationships, the report concentrates too heavily on women as the victims to do justice to its title. Domestic violence is a vast subject since it takes many different forms: physical violence, affective and physical neglect, forced confinement, dependency, sex attacks and also verbal and psychological aggression, financial exploitation, harassment of the spouse at their workplace and murder. It concerns all socio-economic spheres of society.
8. In every recommendation and strategy for abused women there needs to be corresponding measures for the other abused groups. The report recommends financial support be given to NGO’s and women’s associations which deal with abused women and centres be set up by governments to support this service. However there is a need to provide the same support for those abused groups which are ignored by the report. It would be possibly more prudent to provide financial support to all NGO’s for abused groups, possibly through tax breaks.
9. The encouragement through the wider community to provide support to those believed to be being abused should be extended beyond abused women. The inter-agency training, awareness raising, advice provided and legal protection must be afforded to all those suffering domestic violence, of whatever kind.
10. More statistical information also must be collected on all the abused groups, even more so on those groups neglected thus far. The lack of statistics on abused women and children, hiding the true extent of the problem, is exacerbated by the lack of knowledge about the other groups. The lack of information on abuse that is well documented in the case of women will be even more of a problem with the other groups. The shame of a failed relationship to a woman applies equally, if not more heavily to men being abused by their female partner. This needs to be addressed more vigorously. All governments must invest more energy into researching the incidences of other types of domestic abuse. The concentration of the report and government strategies to tackle male against female domestic abuse fail those victims who do not fit into that category.
11. The research into the cause of domestic abuse and programmes for abusers should also be extended to include the other types of abusers – the education programmes for victims, possible victims and possible future abusers must address the fact that domestic abuse is not purely limited to male against female.
Remarks on the draft Recommendation
12. Section A
(i) to provide victims of domestic violence with free legal advice and assistance before taking legal action:
Is this entirely practical? Wholesale financial support for any woman (or man/older person) regardless of their financial situation would be imprudent.
(ii) to insure effective protection for victims of violence after the incident and during the whole legal procedure:
What exactly would this involve? There needs to be more detail on the extent of protection – whether a new name and residence would be provided…whether the alleged perpetrator would be given bail – this would be very difficult.
(v) to adopt or reinforce social protection measures so that injuries caused to women and children by violent acts are provided for under social protection schemes:
Again it is not clear what this would involve, how these would be set up. A clearer idea of what is involved in these recommendations is needed if approval is to be given.
(vi) to promote the training of professionals working with young people, as well as health personnel, to identify children and adolescents growing up in violent homes and to take the necessary measures to help and assist them:
Establish a Europe wide ‘At Risk’ register, co-ordinated through EuroPol?
13. Section B
(x) to encourage the media to cover in a regular, objective and non-biased manner the problem of domestic violence; the mass media should also try to educate the public about the causes and consequences of domestic violence:
This would seem to be a near impossible task given freedom of the press: it is not within a government’s power to dictate what issues the media should tackle and how the media should portray them. Rather it would be a better recommendation to provide the media and the general public with the appropriate information on the issue.
14. Section C
(vii) Immigrants who are perpetrators of domestic violence should be deprived of their residence status and be expelled from the host country:
The practicality of this recommendation must be called into question. An asylum seeker who faces death on return to his/her home country should not be sent back - imprisonment rather than expulsion may be a more practical solution. The recommendation as it stands would amount to state sanctioned murder.
Amendment to Doc. 9525 presented by Mr Hancock (United-Kingdom, LDR) on behalf of the Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee
A) Amend the title of the report as follows:
"Domestic violence against women"
B) In the draft recommendation, in paragraph 7, delete section C, sub-paragraph (vii)
Reporting committee: Committee on Equal Opportunities for Women and Men
Committee for opinion : Social, Health and Family Affairs Committee
Reference to committee: Doc. 9081, Reference No. 2608, 22.05.01
Opinion approved by the committee on 23 September 2002
Secretaries to the committee: Mr Newman, Mrs Meunier and Mrs Karanjac