By Constantinos Psillides
JUSTICE MINISTER Ionas Nicolaou assured the public on Monday that Cyprus will sign and ratify within five years the Council of Europe convention to prevent and combat violence against women.
‘This issue is of the highest priority for the government. We will make all necessary amendments to our legislation, and we will do everything in our power to combat violence against women in any form,” said Nicolaou, speaking at the meeting of the House committee on Human Rights and on Equal Opportunities for Men and Women.
Asked on why Cyprus hadn’t yet signed the convention, first established in May 2011, the minister answered that signing was not that simple.
“By signing the convention we are essentially binding the state to implement all aspects and provisions of it,” he said. “There are studies to be done, costs to be assessed and a legislation that requires amending and modernising. It’s a long way to go from signing to ratifying. And we didn’t want to sign for signing’s sake.”
According to the minister, the convention’s provisions will be fully implemented in within five years.
The main obstacle in ratifying the convention seems to be the cost, especially a provision that requires the state to compensate women and children that were victims of abuse.
“There are some issues that can be problematic. We will ask for some exemptions. A committee has been assembled to assess the cost and present us with solutions,” Nicolaou said.
These results are due within two weeks..
A representative of the finance ministry, who was present at the meeting, said that the only way the ministry would green-light the signing was if the cost were covered without additional funding. “We are operating within a very strict budget. We have to be careful,” she said.
Nicolaou publicly thanked all the NGOs that deal with preventing violence against women.
The minister also announced that the government is proposing additional measures to combat violence against women. This includes stricter legislation for domestic abuse, expanding Cypriot courts jurisdiction to examine cases of Cypriots nationals committing crimes in other countries and finally a special programme for the police academy that covers all aspects of dealing with domestic abuse cases.
According to the minister, one in five women in Cyprus is a victim of domestic violence and one out of ten is subjected to psychological abuse.
Asked to comment on reports regarding human trafficking violations, the minister admitted that Cyprus is in a worse state than other countries and that the convention should help tackling this issue.
November 25 is the international day for the elimination of violence against women.