Issues – ZIF

Issues

Violence against women

 

Violence against women is not the individual problem of individual women, but a manifestation of the historically unequal power relations between men and women, which have led to domination over and discrimination against women by men and to the prevention of women's full advancement..

Extract from the report of the 4th World Conference on Women, Beijing, 1994

 
Definition of violence
Violence against women
  • is a human rights violation and a form of discrimination against women.

  • refers to all acts of violence that result in, or are likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private spaces.

  Domestic violence
  • refers to all acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence that occur within the family or domestic unit or between former or current spouses or partners, whether or not the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the victim.
  • The term "domestic violence" must generally be regarded critically, since it disguises, neutralises and does not mention violence against women. "Domestic violence" as a term has since become firmly established across institutions, but it does not take account of the sociopolitical dimension of violence against women.

 Gender
  • is defined as the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men.

 Gender-based violence against women
  • refers to all violence directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately.
Source: Istanbul Convention, article 3 a-d

Femicide
  • is the intentional killing of a woman on the basis of an alleged infringement of traditional and normative gender role expectations.
Source: Russell, Diana and Roberta Harmes (2006). Feminicidio: Una Perspectiva Global.
 
Violence against women takes many forms
  • physical violence
  • mental violence
  • sexualised violence
  • economic violence
  • stalking
  • women trafficking
  • forced marriage
  • genital mutilation
  • structural violence and disadvantage in society
  • etc.
 
Studies on the issue:
 

The wheel of violence

 

Violence against girls and boys

 

Yes, I thought it was good that I had someone to talk to. When I had problems, I could tell her everything.

Girl, 10, living in a women's refuge

 
Definition of violence
Violence against women
  • is a human rights violation and a form of discrimination against women.

  • refers to all acts of violence that result in, or are likely to result in physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women, including threats, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private spaces.

  Domestic violence
  • refers to all acts of physical, sexual, psychological or economic violence that occur within the family or domestic unit or between former or current spouses or partners, whether or not the perpetrator shares or has shared the same residence with the victim.
  • The term "domestic violence" must generally be regarded critically, since it disguises, neutralises and does not mention violence against women. "Domestic violence" as a term has since become firmly established across institutions, but it does not take account of the sociopolitical dimension of violence against women.

 Gender
  • is defined as the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for women and men.

 Gender-based violence against women
  • refers to all violence directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately.
Source: Istanbul Convention, article 3 a-d

Femicide
  • is the intentional killing of a woman on the basis of an alleged infringement of traditional and normative gender role expectations.
Source: Russell, Diana and Roberta Harmes (2006). Feminicidio: Una Perspectiva Global.
Most of the girls and boys seeking shelter with their mothers are themselves affected by physical, mental and/or sexualised violence or have witnessed, seen or heard acts of violence being perpetrated on their mothers day after day, sometimes for months or years on end. Many national and international studies have demonstrated that the witnessing of partnership violence constitutes a form of endangerment of the welfare of the child and makes the children just as much victims of violence as their mothers. The violence they experience has a deep and lasting impact on the development and maturity of the child. The confidence and the feelings of safety and security felt by these children are profoundly shaken.

For these girls and boys, an escape to a women's refuge represents a radical change from their life so far, and one that has many consequences. They are leaving their familiar environment, their fathers, relatives, school or nursery and friends behind. They have to get used to a strange environment.

At the same time, they experience a tangible sense of relief that they themselves and their mothers are no longer exposed to the violence of the father. Many children only develop feelings of safety, relaxation and the absence of fear for the first time in the women's refuge. Meeting other children helps them realise that violence does not just happen in their own family and is not something they alone have had to bear.

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Istanbul Convention

 

The aim of the Istanbul Convention is to prevent, prosecute and eliminate gender-based and domestic violence, provide comprehensive support for those affected and promote equality between the genders.

ZIF brochure "Gewalt gegen Frauen wirksam bekämpfen", January 2020

Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence

hereinafter: Istanbul Convention:
The Istanbul Convention is a human rights treaty of the Council of Europe aimed at combating gender-based violence against women and girls. It has been in force in Germany since February 2018, but unfortunately still with provisos regarding the rights of migrants. It lays down an obligation to take comprehensive measures to prevent and sanction violence and protect against violence. Implementation of the Convention requires a holistic concept that is continuously reviewed and monitored. However, so far Germany lacks the structures to do so. (Source: Press release by the Bündnis Istanbul-Konvention, September 2019).

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Funding for women's refuges

 

The autonomous women's refuges call for the model of case-by-case financing (day rate financing) to be replaced by a mechanism for funding of women's refuges that is demand-led and independent of individual cases and is enshrined in federal law, so that it applies to all states.

ZIF Autonome Frauenhäuser, April 2018

How women's refuges are funded

There have been women's refuges in Germany since 1976. Their funding since then has been unregulated and inadequate. How a women's refuge is resourced with staff and premises depends essentially on the political will of the local authority and relevant federal state. As yet – apart from a state law in Schleswig-Holstein – there is no legislation that secures funding. Closely related to the question of how women's refuges are funded is access to shelter and assistance for women affected by violence and their children. The more complicated and cumbersome this access is, the less effective it can be. Rapid, hassle-free admission to a women's refuge can save the lives of women and children, who may be put in danger if admission is not granted.


  • Only federal regulation can ensure binding laws giving equal access to the refuges across the country.
  • Only the flat funding of women's refuges can ensure that all women affected by violence and their children get safe, rapid and hassle-free access to protection and demand-led support in the women's refuge of their choice.

That is why autonomous women's refuges are calling for women's refuges to be funded according to a 3-pillar model:
Further information on the issue of women's refuge funding and the 3-pillar model can be found in our brochure and other documents:

Custody and access rights

 

Separations are particularly stressful for many children precisely because the danger to their physical integrity often escalates even further during the emotionally damaging separation phases in relationships with domestic violence.

Fegert, J. (2013): Die Frage des Kindeswohls und der Ausgestaltung des Umgangsrechts nach Trennung der Eltern in Fällen häuslicher Gewalt aus kinder- und jugendpsychiatrischer Sicht

Since the German Family Matters Act (FamFG)  was reformed in 2009, the situation for women affected by violence and their children after separation has become even more dangerous. The principles of priority and expediting proceedings enshrined in the FamFG are proving to be particularly problematic . These state that the hearing in custody and access proceedings is to take place not more than one month after the commencement of proceedings, at which hearing initial decisions on access may have to be taken. The option of suspending access is rarely utilised.

It has been proven, however, that the period immediately before and after separation from a violent man is the most dangerous time for women and their children. Assaults are a frequent occurrence, even when children are being delivered for access visits. "Men who feel rejected (…) as a result of separation or divorce develop a dangerous mix of hurt, anger and willingness to use violence." (Source: Schröttle, M./Müller, U./Glammeier, S. (2004): Lebenssituationen, Sicherheit und Gesundheit von Frauen in Deutschland.) That is why the majority of violent assaults and murders of women and children occur during this period.

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