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The Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) is one of two Council of Europe statutory organs (see also, the Committee of Ministers) that promotes the CoE’s mission to strengthen and realise human rights, democracy and the rule of law throughout Europe. As a deliberative body, PACE consists of 324 parliamentarians (and an equal number of substitutes) who are appointed by their respective national parliaments and meet four times a year in Strasbourg. PACE is one of the four pillars of the CoE “quadrilogue” (Committee of Ministers, Parliamentary Assembly, Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, and the Conference of INGOs).

In addition to its coordinating bodies – the Bureau of the Assembly (comprising the President, 20 Vice-Presidents, the Chairpersons of the political groups, and the Chairpersons of the general PACE Committees), the Presidential Committee, the Joint Committee and the Standing Committee – PACE also has nine permanent committees:

  • Equality and Non-Discrimination – which has as one of its top priorities the prevention and combating of violence against women
  • Political Affairs and Democracy
  • Legal Affairs and Human Rights
  • Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development
  • Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons
  • Culture, Science, Education and Media
  • Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)
  • Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs
  • Election of Judges to the European Court of Human Rights

The Parliamentary Assembly is responsible for (Statute of the Council of Europe, Chapter V, as its original name of Consultative Assembly):

  • Demanding action from 47 European governments, who must jointly reply
  • Conducting probes to uncover new facts about human rights violations
  • Questioning Presidents and Prime Ministers on any topic it chooses, thus holding them accountable
  • Observing elections and sending delegations to mediate in crisis hot-spots
  • Negotiating the terms on which states join the Council of Europe
  • Inspiring new national laws by proposing and giving opinions on treaties
  • Requesting legal opinions on the laws and constitutions of member states
  • Sanctioning a member state by recommending its exclusion or suspension

iconLockWant more? You can read Parliamentary Assembly’s Rules of Procedure and learn more about its work

How does it help tackle violence against women?

PACE has actively worked towards ending VAW. It has played an important role not only in shaping the Istanbul Convention, but also in promoting it at national level through hearings and other events. PACE has frequently adopted resolutions to call for a convention on VAW, and once the Istanbul Convention was created, to promote its ratification. Some of PACE’s resolutions on tackling VAW and promoting gender equality include:

  • Resolution 2101 (2016): systematic data collection on violence against women
  • Resolution 2093 (2016): the need for honest reporting and a comprehensive response to recent attacks against women
  • Resolution 2027 (2014): focusing on the perpetrators to prevent violence against women
  • Resolution 1861 (2012): promoting the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (the “Istanbul Convention”)
  • Resolution 1852 (2011): Psychological violence against women

Resolution 2084 (2015) of the Parliamentary Assembly focused on promoting best practices in tackling violence against women, which called on member states to:

  • Sign and/or ratify, if they have not yet done so, the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence;
  • Implement the provisions of the convention effectively, in light of the future findings of the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) and any recommendations made by the Committee of the Parties;
  • Draw on the experiences of other states to develop laws and strategies to effectively fight all forms of violence against women;
  • Call on the expertise of women’s support service organisations working in the field and national human rights institutions when examining the ratification or implementation of the convention in national parliaments;
  • Undertake research and data collection in several fields with regard to combating violence against women, including reporting by professionals, compensation procedures and delivery of residence permits;
  • Continue to ensure adequate funding for prevention measures and for assistance and protection services for victims of all forms of violence against women, including domestic violence.

iconLockWant more? Browse through all of PACE’s resolutions related to VAW on their online search engine

Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination

The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination consists of 81 member appointed by their national delegations to PACE. This Committee undertakes PACE’s work to end gender-based violence and promote gender equality, preparing thematic reports on VAW-related issues and conducting fact-finding missions to investigate the status of women on the ground. Thematic reports include: ending gender-based violence against women in armed forces, addressing female genital mutilation in Europe, protecting refugee women from gender-based violence and ending sexual violence and street harassment.

Resolutions on VAW that are adopted by PACE as a whole always originate from the Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination. Examples of texts from the Committee and adopted by PACE include:

  • Rec. 1450 (2000): Violence against women in Europe
  • Rec. 1545 (2002): Campaign against trafficking in women
  • Rec. 1739 (2006): Gender budgeting as a tool for safeguarding women’s health
  • Rec. 1847 (2008): Combating violence against women: towards a Council of Europe convention
  • Rec. 1970 (2011) Protecting migrant women in the labour market

The Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination also has a Sub-committee on Gender Equality and is home to the Parliamentary Network Women Free from Violence and General Rapporteur on violence against women.

The Parliamentary Network Women Free from Violence

The Parliamentary Network Women Free from Violence is a group of parliamentarians from member and observer states who work to raise legal and policy standards for preventing VAW, protecting victims and effectively prosecuting perpetrators. They also promote the Istanbul Convention by holding hearings on VAW during PACE sessions, parliamentary seminars to ratify or monitor the Convention and awareness-raising events and publications. For example, in 2014 the Network performed ‘Wounded to Death’: a theatrical project aimed at raising awareness and generating action to tackle VAW. Originally written by Serena Dandini, the Network read extracts meant to give the victims of femicide a voice through monologues drawn from current events:

“I finally “came out” and told him I’d been promoted, and I did it in style – treated him to a weekend in Paris at a 5-star hotel. That’s when the trouble started. Slowly but surely, a subtle poison turned our relationship toxic. He didn’t seem to find me as fun and brilliant as he used to; now any excuse was good for aiming a blow at my self-esteem which, me being a woman, had never been that great to begin with… It was a constant onslaught, no holds barred, until one May night, when we’d just returned home from a conference on interest rates, he dealt me the final blow: with a heavy cut-glass ashtray thrown straight at my forehead.”

The Network has also published a handbook on the Istanbul Convention with the aim of offering parliamentarians in all member states the tools necessary to speed up or move towards ratification of the Convention.

iconLockWant more? You can learn more about the Parliamentary Network Free from Violence and their work to promote the ratification of the Istanbul Convention

General Rapporteur on violence against women

The General Rapporteur on violence against women is an expert appointed by the Parliamentary Assembly Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination to intervene in issues of VAW in all its forms. Serving a one-year term, twice renewable, the General Rapporteur raises awareness about VAW, actively promotes the ratification of the Istanbul Convention and coordinates activities with the Parliamentary Network Women Free from Violence. The Rapporteur may also publish reports to be transmitted to the Parliamentary Assembly, for example, an in-depth report on examples of legislation and good practices in combating violence against women

The General Rapporteur on violence against women is responsible for (Activities of the Assembly’s Bureau and Standing Committee 27 January – 22 April 2012, Progress report, Appendix 1):

  • contributing to raising awareness about violence against women
  • following relevant developments in member states
  • promoting the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence
  • reporting periodically to the PACE committee on the information collected and the action taken
  • ensuring the political coordination of the PACE Network of contact parliamentarians committed to combating violence against women
  • follow activities and maintain working relations with relevant CoE intergovernmental bodies, governmental or non-governmental organisations dealing with violence against women
  • representing the committee on behalf of the Assembly vis-à-vis the Committee of the Parties of the Istanbul Convention
  • following up on Assembly Resolution 1635 and Recommendation 1847 (2008) on Combating violence against women; Resolution 1852 (2011) on Psychological violence; Resolution 1853 (2011) on Protection orders for victims of domestic violence and Resolution 1861 (2012) on Promoting the Istanbul Convention

iconLockWant more? Read information on the current General Rapporteur’s work

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