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CoE experts say Italy must do more to protect women from violence

EPA/MASSIMO PERCOSSI
Women attend a protest rally marking the International Women's Day in Rome, Italy, 08 March 2017.

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Gender equality is facing resistance in Italy despite some progress that has been made to promote women’s rights, according to GREVIO, the Council of Europe’s group of experts on violence against women, during its first evaluation of the country’s implementation of the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women.
The report welcomed the steps Italy took to encourage gender equality and combat violence against women through a series of legislative reforms and concrete actions. In particular, it is stated that some legislation, such as one from 2009 on stalking, or the adoption of Law No. 119/2013 which formalised the authorities’ duty to strengthen the network of support services for victims, made ‘‘considerable headway.’’
The country, however, still has to do more as there are ‘‘emerging signs of a tendency to reinterpret and refocus gender-equality in terms of family and motherhood policies,’’ the report underlined.
GREVIO suggested that one of the national authorities’ top priorities should be the development of appropriate funding and further solutions that would allow all stakeholders concerned, including women’s NGOs providing shelters for victims, to coordinately respond to violence. Moreover, the report recommended that further support is given to victims of sexual violence with crises centres for rape and sexual violence cases.
While some of the legislative reforms, including one known as the Red Code, encouraged the alignment with the requirements of the convention on the civil and criminal law remedies for victims of violence, legislative gaps still exist.
At the same time, the report highlighted that even though in the existing legislative framework the priority is meant to be given to the best interest of the child over and above the principle of shared parenting, these provisions are rarely used. According to GREVIO, the system tends to ‘‘place to expose to secondary victimisation mothers who seek to protect their children by reporting the violence.’’
Furthermore, regarding the issue of asylum, the report warned that incorrect assessments when trying to properly detect victims can lead to deportations or returns, something that would violate the principle of non-refoulment. In particular, national authorities are urged to stick to the latter principle and respect the human rights of victims that are rescued at sea.
GREVIO was unequivocal in its call to Italy that it prioritises the application of legal provisions for family cases which ensure that policies address prevention, protection, investigation, and punishment. Moreover, it urged the Italian government to ensure that Italy’s national, regional, and local authorities work together to implement and monitor all policies addressing violence against women and to increase its transparency and accountability while developing long-term financing solutions for women’s specialist services. I
n addition, independent women’s organisations need to receive more support and recognition that would ease their cooperation with national and local institutions.
GREVIO concluded its finding by saying that in order for Italy to fully align with the Istanbul Convention, more needs to be done when it comes to increasing awareness and public education about gender-based violence.

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