WAVE Conference 24–27 September 2009, Vienna CEDAW as an instrument to improve the protection of women from violence by Rosa Logar. Introduction.
In my presentation I will focus on:
The aim of my presentation is to encourage women and women’s organisations to send communications to CEDAW (not only in the case of homicides, of course)
and to show that international law can be a powerful instrument that we should use
Şahide had experienced violence by her husband for several years. She had 3 children.
Despite three eviction orders by the police and a civil court protection order, her husband Mustafa did not stop being violent.
Although he threatened on several occasions that he would kill her, the prosecutor‘s office did not initiate an arrest.
On a Friday night Mustafa came to the apartment despite the protection order; Şahide called the police who did not send a patrol car because ‘he had left already’.
On Saturday 7 December 2002 Şahide was shot by her husband with a handgun in her apartment in the presence of her two daughters, her son found her dead.
Mustafa was later sentenced to a prison term in a prison for mentally ill offenders
In summer 2003 Fatma decided to divorce her increasingly violent husband.
On 6 August the police issued an eviction order.
Despite this order, Fatma and her 5 year old daughter Melissa moved out of the family house because they were afraid of further violence.
Her husband Irfan continued to be violent, he threatened to kill her on several occasions, following her to her workplace.
Among other threats he told her that he would kill her and that her story would be in the newspapers.
Although she reported every incident to the police, the prosecutor did not issue an arrest.
On the evening of 11 September 2003, Fatma was stabbed to death on her way home from work.
Her husband fled but was found and sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
Note: definition of ‘gender-based violence as violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionally’ (CEDAW Committee 1992:art 6)
The authorities, especially the prosecutor’s office, had refused to take any responsibility.
Fatma and Şahide had been clients of the Domestic Abuse Intervention Centre Vienna; the communications were submitted on their behalf.
The NGO Association of Women‘s Access to Justice and its president Anna Sporrer supported the move, financially and practically – lawyer Gerda Hammerer wrote the complaint in cooperation with us – we spent about € 10 000.
We discussed whether it might have negative consequences to submit the communications to CEDAW, after all the Intervention Centre is 100% state funded.
We decided that the level of democratic development was high enough in Austria to ensure that no negative effects were to be feared.
By signing the Optional Protocol, Austria had also obliged itself not to subject people turning to the CEDAW Committee to ill treatment or intimidation (Article 11 OP).
In addition, it is the duty of the Intervention Centres to help victims enforce their rights, which also includes the rights they have been granted under international treaties.
In July 2004, the Intervention Centre Vienna, together with the Association for Women‘s Access to Justice, submitted the communication to the CEDAW Committee on behalf of Fatma, Sahide and their children.
We claimed that the State Party had not actively taken all appropriate measures to protect Şahide’s and Fatma’s rights to personal safety and life and thus had violated their rights under Articles 1, 2, 3 and 5 of CEDAW. We also claimed that Austria had not fulfilled its obligation stipulated in Recommendations 12, 19 and 21 of the CEDAW Committee
We argued that in both cases the State Party had failed to treat the perpetrator as an extremely violent and dangerous offender in accordance with criminal law.
We demanded a general improvement in the protection of women from violence
As a consequence, in both cases the CEDAW Committee made a number of recommendations to Austria:
As an indirect result, a new set of measures of protection against violence came into force on 1 June 2009. The new legal provisions include:
What is the answer to the questions “What is the importance of international treaties such as CEDAW at national level, and what potential for concrete improvements does it actually involve”?
Two assumptions can be made with regard to these questions:
The two main arguments of the CEDAW decisions are landmarks in the prevention of violence against women:
Thank you for your attention.