Recognition of the measures taken in the field of gender violence by the partner. And request that more actions be taken against sexist violence in other areas. These are some of the main conclusions of the first report evaluating the application by Spain of the Istanbul Convention (the international reference treaty on the matter), carried out by the Group of Experts in Action against Violence against Women and the Domestic Violence (GREVIO) of the Council of Europe.
From ‘what were you doing alone at that time’ to ‘you kept knowing what is there’: the curfew threatens to be a new stigma for women who suffer sexual violence
Thus, GREVIO highlights “the solid policy agenda” of the Spanish authorities to prevent and combat violence against women and “their pioneering role” by adopting in 2004 a comprehensive law on intimate partner violence that incorporates an approach focused on violence. victim and the gender nature of this type of violence. The report recognizes “the support and protection measures for victims that are offered on the basis of cooperation between law enforcement agencies, courts specialized in violence against women, health services, and entities that provide legal advice to women “.
The Council of Europe group also welcomes the fact that “the law has been complemented by the National Strategy for the Eradication of Violence against Women and the State Pact against Gender Violence, which contain a set of measures to improve institutional responses to intimate partner violence, “the report explains.
GREVIO, however, “expresses concern that comprehensive support services for victims and cooperation among multiple agencies in Spain have focused exclusively on intimate partner violence to the detriment of other forms of violence, particularly violence sexual intercourse, forced marriage and female genital mutilation “.
“Taking into account the high level of regional and local autonomy in Spain”, GREVIO explains, “the report regrets the regional variations in the implementation of the Istanbul Convention, despite the coordination measures adopted by the Spanish authorities.”
As a consequence, “comparable levels of protection and support are not guaranteed everywhere, particularly with regard to forms of non-intimate partner violence. Very few autonomous communities offer specialized services for victims of sexual assault and rape, and even fewer are specialized support services, if they exist, for women at risk or in situations of forced marriage, female genital mutilation, harassment, forced sterilization and abortion. ”
In recent times, the report explains, “the interpretations of the crime of rape and sexual abuse offered by the courts and the support and protection available to rape victims have been widely discussed by the public.”
In this context, the report “notes with concern a marked increase in collective rapes in recent years, as well as the fact that cases increasingly concern underage victims or perpetrators.”
“The Penal Code has been and continues to be reviewed to adapt it to the requirements of the Istanbul Convention,” the report states: “However, in relation to the processes for sexual assault and rape, several factors were identified that negatively impact on the experiences of women victims with the criminal justice sector The length of the proceedings, the exclusion of the use of forensic evidence collected without a judge’s order, as well as the very high threshold for proving rape in court can easily lead to the re-victimization of victims and contribute to low conviction rates. ”
“Despite the availability of legal measures to guarantee the safety of women and children who are victims of domestic violence,” GREVIO continues, “deficiencies in their implementation result in joint custody and extensive visitation rights granted to the convicted perpetrators, and visitation regimes frequently ordered or maintained despite evidence of violence and abuse provided by the children themselves or professionals. Staff at family gathering points, as well as judges, often seem to misjudge situations of abuse or ignorance of the gender dynamics of intimate partner violence, as well as the impact on children of witnessing the abuse of their mothers and the use of custody and visits from violent fathers to continue the abuse. ”
Although GREVIO applauds “the efforts made in the implementation of the Istanbul Convention”, he identifies a series of “priority issues that require greater action” by the Spanish authorities: “Strengthen measures to prevent and combat violence that affects women exposed to intersectional discrimination “; “to ensure the proper allocation of resources and their use by regional authorities, as well as to develop financing systems that allow women’s NGOs to play an active role in the provision of support services”; “Strengthen training efforts for professionals such as police officers, health workers, and teachers, and evaluate the different training available to the judiciary”; “improve the provision of support services, in particular by taking effective measures to ensure adequate provision of accommodation”; “Strengthen the legal framework on psychological violence, harassment, sexual violence, sexual harassment and female genital mutilation”; and “guarantee the safety of the victims” with protection orders that are “duly issued by the judiciary and respected by the perpetrators.”
Another concern presented by GREVIO’s report has to do with the financing of specialized support services through public tenders. GREVIO points out that such procedures “tend to favor the lowest bidder, which sometimes results in public contracts being attributed to private companies not specialized in support services for victims of violence. There is concern about the deterioration of working conditions in support services provided by private companies “.
“In some regions”, the report explains, “this problem has been solved by regulating the provision of services by non-profit entities (Basque Country), which GREVIO appreciates. However, representatives of civil society in other regions of the country have provided worrying information about their precarious working and financing conditions. The reform of the public tender law now allows public procurement procedures to require that bidders base their service provision on a gender approach, but this reform has not yet developed to its full potential. ”
In this sense, GREVIO “points out the need to guarantee that all service providers for victims of violence against women operate and respect the essential minimum standards that have been developed by the women’s movement and have been exhaustively reviewed in the publications of the Council of Europe “. Furthermore, the agency “recalls that optimal support and assistance for victims, catered to their specific needs, are better guaranteed by specialized and experienced personnel with in-depth knowledge of gender-based violence.”