By Poly Pantelides
CYPRUS is finally considering signing the Council of Europe convention to prevent and combat violence against women, while the justice ministry is looking to push legislation to strengthen current laws, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said yesterday.
Data suggests 28 per cent of women in Cyprus may at some point have been harmed by their partners, but many would have kept silent.
Nicolaou said the ministry was working with the legal services department to improve and modernise the legal framework and push legislation to parliament that will better address domestic violence which mostly seems to affect women.
The Association for the Prevention and Handling of Family Violence, which is holding a series of events to raise awareness on domestic violence, said that studies showed reported cases of violence varied from sexual (15.5 per cent) to psychological and/or emotional (19.3 per cent). Reports of violence increased with age, with 28 per cent of women aged 34 to 44 saying they had been abused, compared with 35.9 per cent of women aged between 45 and 64. Divorced women were far more likely to report violence (71.2 per cent), followed by women who were separated from their partners (65 per cent). Among married couples living together, the figure was lower, but at 23 per cent suggests that nearly one in four wives had been victims of abuse.
Amazingly, more than half or 57 per cent of all women who had been abused, never told anyone, some saying they kept quiet because of their children, others because they feared repercussions or were even ashamed. Only one in three victims ever asked for any sort of help, the study showed.
The Council of Europe invited countries to sign and ratify the convention on violence against women more than two years ago, in May 2011.
Cyprus has failed to do so, although Nicolaou said the government was “seriously considering” it.
It seems that the biggest obstacle in ratifying the convention is the high cost involved, as it calls for the allocation of “financial and human resources for the adequate implementation of integrated policies”, as well as creating a framework for compensating victims via state-funded health and social provisions and from perpetrators.
Victims can call the police at 199 or the 1440 hotline, that unfortunately does not have the necessary funds to operate late at night, from 10pm to 8am.
Nicolaou said in addition to the only existing safe house, the association would be setting up another shelter for women and families in early 2014 and was planning to set up a private shelter by the end of 2015.