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Violence against women: UN expert concludes visit to Italy

Italian version

ITALY/GENEVA (26 January 2012) –The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, today concluded a fact finding mission to Italy. She delivered the following preliminary statement:

“I would like to begin by expressing my gratitude to the Government of Italy for the prompt reply to my request for a visit, as well as the excellent cooperation extended during my 12-day visit to the country. I am also grateful to my interlocutors, including high level state officials at the national and local level, individuals and organisations at the civil society level, academics, women in custody and most especially survivors of violence. My meetings in Rome, Milan, Bologna and Naples included visits to anti-violence shelters for women, an authorised camp for the Roma and Sinti community, prisons and detention facilities for women and children, an immigration detention center for irregular migrants, and meetings at a university.

My visit focused broadly on violence against women in four spheres, including the home, the community, violence perpetrated or condoned by the state, and violence in the transnational context. Issues that I looked into include domestic violence; femicide; violence against women who face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including Roma, Sinti and other migrant women; detained women, women with disabilities and transgendered people.

In my discussions with both state and non-state service providers such as the police, judges, cultural mediators, associations working on the promotion and protection of women’s rights, as well as people working and living in anti-violence shelters for women, it was clear that a vast amount of experience and expertise exists in the provision of services including legal, social, psychological and economic assistance to victims of violence against women. This has been possible due to the provision of funding by the government, through collaborative public/private partnerships, and also through external funding sources.

Unfortunately, violence against women continues to be a problem in Italy, similar to many other countries in the world. With statistics ranging between 70 and 87%, depending on the source, domestic violence is the most pervasive form of violence that continues to affect women across the country. The continuum of violence in the home is reflected in the increasing numbers of victims of femicide. Reported statistics indicate that in 2006, 101 women were killed by a partner, spouse or former partner and this figure increased to 127 in 2010. Most manifestations of violence are underreported in a context of a family-oriented and patriarchal society; domestic violence is not always perceived as a crime; economic dependency; and perceptions that the state response to such complaints will not be appropriate or helpful. Furthermore, a fragmented legal framework and inadequate investigation, punishment and compensation for women victims of violence, also contributes to the silencing and invisibility surrounding this issue.

It is important to note that the statistics mentioned above do not necessarily take into consideration the prevalence of violence against women from the Roma, Sinti and other minority communities. As minorities, such groups face multiple forms of violence and discrimination in both the private and public sectors. This is exacerbated by their civil status, whether regular or irregular, their socio-economic realities, and their lack of trust and confidence in the state system, amongst others. Their situation is often characterized by a lack of adequate housing, health, education and unemployment services and opportunities. It was brought to my notice that the perpetuation of discrimination and violence against such women, at the individual and the institutional level, also makes them reluctant to seek health, legal, social and support services.

With regard to women detainees, I have been informed about the challenges relating to access to education and employment opportunities, due to resource constraints and also to discriminatory practices by prison staff. I have also noted with concern the numerous complaints as regards the inconsistent practices followed by some supervisory judges in the review of sentences for earlier release of women detainees who fulfil the conditions for an alternative form of detention. Furthermore, the challenges facing women detainees, who have minor children within and/or outside prisons, should be reviewed and if possible, alternative forms of detention need to be considered.

I commend the Government’s efforts to address the issue of violence against women, including through the promulgation of laws such as the one on stalking; the establishment of national plans of action on violence against women and also on women, peace and security; a National Plan for the Inclusion of Women in the Labor Market, as well as the establishment and merger of government bodies responsible for the promotion and protection of women’s rights. However, I note that there still exist many challenges, including the full and effective participation of women in the public and private labor sector as well as in the political sphere. A fragmented legal and policy framework, as well as limited financial resources to address violence against women, are a challenge, as regards the effective fulfilment of Italy’s international obligations. In this regard, I would like to reiterate the need for holistic solutions which address both the individual needs of women; and also the social, economic and cultural barriers that are a reality in the lives of all women. Such needs must also be coupled with social transformation to address the systemic and structural causes of inequality and discrimination, which most often lead to violence against women.

Finally, let me stress that the current political and economic situation faced by Italy cannot be used to justify the decrease of attention and resources to address all manifestations of violence against all women and girls in this country. I call on relevant stakeholders to take on the responsibility at this crucial time to promote human rights for all, and most importantly, to keep the issue of violence against women on the national agenda. I encourage the governmental and the non-governmental sectors to work in a more coherent and creative way, to achieve the transition to a politically and economically stable society, where the promotion and protection of human rights of all people becomes an important goal in this time of crisis and change.

My comprehensive findings will be discussed in the report I will present to the United Nations Human Rights Council in June 2012.

ENDS

Ms. Rashida Manjoo (South Africa) was appointed Special Rapporteur on Violence against women, its causes and consequences in June 2009 by the UN Human Rights Council, for an initial period of three year. As Special Rapporteur, she is independent from any government or organization and serves in her individual capacity. Ms. Manjoo is also a Professor at the Department of Public Law at the University of Cape Town.

For additional information on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur, please visit:
http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/women/rapporteur/index.htm

Check the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women:
http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N94/095/05/PDF/N9409505.pdf?OpenElement

OHCHR Country Page – Italy
http://ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/ITIndex.aspx

For press inquiries please contact Fabio Graziosi (Tel: +32 (0)2 788 8469 / email: graziosi@unric.org), Selma Vadala (Tel: +41 (0)79-444-4332 / email: svadala@ohchr.org)

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)  

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