Recommendation Rec(2002)5
    of the Committee of Ministers to member states
    on the protection of women against violence 1

    (Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 30 April 2002
    at the 794th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies)

    The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,

    Reaffirming that violence towards women is the result of an imbalance of power between men and women and is leading to serious discrimination against the female sex, both within society and within the family;

    Affirming that violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms;

    Noting that violence against women constitutes a violation of their physical, psychological and/or sexual integrity;

    Noting with concern that women are often subjected to multiple discrimination on ground of their gender as well as their origin, including as victims of traditional or customary practices inconsistent with their human rights and fundamental freedoms;

    Considering that violence against women runs counter to the establishment of equality and peace and constitutes a major obstacle to citizens’ security and democracy in Europe;

    Noting with concern the extent of violence against women in the family, whatever form the family takes, and at all levels of society;

    Considering it urgent to combat this phenomenon which affects all European societies and concerns all their members;

    Recalling the Final Declaration adopted at the Second Council of Europe Summit (Strasbourg, 1997), in which the heads of state and government of the member states affirmed their determination to combat violence against women and all forms of sexual exploitation of women;

    Bearing in mind the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights (1950) and the case-law of its organs, which safeguard, inter alia, the right to life and the right not to be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the right to liberty and security and the right to a fair trial;

    Considering the European Social Charter (1961) and the revised European Social Charter (1996), in particular the provisions therein concerning equality between women and men with regard to employment, as well as the Additional Protocol to the European Social Charter providing for a system of collective complaints;

    Recalling the following recommendations of the Committee of Ministers to member states of the Council of Europe: Recommendation No. R (79) 17 concerning the protection of children against ill-treatment; Recommendation No. R (85) 4 on violence in the family; Recommendation No. R (85) 11 on the position of the victim within the framework of criminal law and procedure; Recommendation No. R (87) 21 on assistance to victims and the prevention of victimisation; Recommendation No. R (90) 2 on social measures concerning violence within the family; Recommendation No. R (91) 11 concerning sexual exploitation, pornography and prostitution of, and trafficking in, children and young adults; Recommendation No. R (93) 2 on the medico-social aspects of child abuse, Recommendation No. R (2000) 11 on action against trafficking in human beings for the purpose of sexual exploitation and Recommendation Rec (2001) 16 on the protection of children against sexual exploitation;

    Recalling also the Declarations and Resolutions adopted by the 3rd European Ministerial Conference on Equality between Women and Men held by the Council of Europe (Rome, 1993);

    Bearing in mind the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (1993), the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979), the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and its Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (2000), the Platform for Action adopted at the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 1995) and the Resolution on Further actions and initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (23rd extraordinary session, New York, 5-9 June 2000);

    Bearing in mind the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), as well as its Optional Protocol on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (2000);

    Also bearing in mind the International Labour Organisation Convention No. 182 concerning the Prohibition and Immediate Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labour (1999) and Recommendation (R 190) on the Worst Forms of Child Labour (1999);

    Recalling the basic principles of international humanitarian law, and especially the 4th Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war (1949) and the 1st and 2nd additional Protocols thereto;

    Recalling also the inclusion of gender-related crimes and sexual violence in the Statute of the International Criminal Court (Rome, 17 July 1998),

    Recommends that the governments of member states:

    I. Review their legislation and policies with a view to:

    1. guaranteeing women the recognition, enjoyment, exercise and protection of their human rights and fundamental freedoms;

    2. taking necessary measures, where appropriate, to ensure that women are able to exercise freely and effectively their economic and social rights;

    3. ensuring that all measures are co-ordinated nation-wide and focused on the needs of the victims and that relevant state institutions as well as non-governmental organisations (NGOs) be associated with the elaboration and the implementation of the necessary measures, in particular those mentioned in this recommendation;

    4. encouraging at all levels the work of NGOs involved in combating violence against women and establishing active co-operation with these NGOs, including appropriate logistic and financial support;

    II. Recognise that states have an obligation to exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and punish acts of violence, whether those acts are perpetrated by the state or private persons, and provide protection to victims;

    III. Recognise that male violence against women is a major structural and societal problem, based on the unequal power relations between women and men and therefore encourage the active participation of men in actions aiming at combating violence against women;

    IV. Encourage all relevant institutions dealing with violence against women (police, medical and social professions) to draw up medium- and long-term co-ordinated action plans, which provide activities for the prevention of violence and the protection of victims;

    V. Promote research, data collection and networking at national and international level;

    VI. Promote the establishment of higher education programmes and research centres including at university level, dealing with equality issues, in particular with violence against women;

    VII. Improve interactions between the scientific community, the NGOs in the field, political decision-makers and legislative, health, educational, social and police bodies in order to design co-ordinated actions against violence;

    VIII. Adopt and implement the measures described in the appendix to this recommendation in the manner they consider the most appropriate in the light of national circumstances and preferences, and, for this purpose, consider establishing a national plan of action for combating violence against women;

    IX. Inform the Council of Europe on the follow-up given at national level to the provisions of this recommendation.

    Appendix to Recommendation Rec (2002)5


    1. For the purposes of this recommendation, the term “violence against women” is to be understood as any act of gender-based violence, which results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion, or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:

    a. violence occurring in the family or domestic unit, including, inter alia, physical and mental aggression, emotional and psychological abuse, rape and sexual abuse, incest, rape between spouses, regular or occasional partners and cohabitants, crimes committed in the name of honour, female genital and sexual mutilation and other traditional practices harmful to women, such as forced marriages;

    b. violence occurring within the general community, including, inter alia, rape, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and intimidation at work, in institutions or elsewhere trafficking in women for the purposes of sexual exploitation and economic exploitation and sex tourism;

    c. violence perpetrated or condoned by the state or its officials;

    d. violation of the human rights of women in situations of armed conflict, in particular the taking of hostages, forced displacement, systematic rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy, and trafficking for the purposes of sexual exploitation and economic exploitation.

    General measures concerning violence against women

    2. It is the responsibility and in the interest of states as well as a priority of national policies to safeguard the right of women not to be subjected to violence of any kind or by any person. To this end, states may not invoke custom, religion or tradition as a means of evading this obligation.

    3. Member states should introduce, develop and/or improve where necessary, national policies against violence based on:

    a. maximum safety and protection of victims;

    b. empowerment of victimised women by optimal support and assistance structures which avoid secondary victimisation;

    c. adjustment of the criminal and civil law including the judicial procedure;

    d. raising of public awareness and education of children and young persons;

    e. ensuring special training for professionals confronted with violence against women;

    f. prevention in all respective fields.

    4. In this framework, it will be necessary to set up, wherever possible, at national level, and in co-operation with, where necessary, regional and/or local authorities, a governmental co-ordination institution or body in charge of the implementation of measures to combat violence against women as well as of regular monitoring and evaluation of any legal reform or new form of intervention in the field of action against violence, in consultation with NGOs and academic and other institutions.

    5. Research, data collection and networking at national and international level should be developed, in particular in the following fields:

    a. the preparation of statistics sorted by gender, integrated statistics and common indicators in order to better evaluate the scale of violence against women;

    b. the medium- and long-term consequences of assaults on victims;

    c. the consequence of violence on those who are witness to it, inter alia, within the family;

    d. the health, social and economic costs of violence against women;

    e. the assessment of the efficiency of the judiciary and legal systems in combating violence against women;

    f. the causes of violence against women, i.e. the reasons which cause men to be violent and the reasons why society condones such violence;

    g. the elaboration of criteria for benchmarking in the field of violence.

    Information, public awareness, education and training

    Member states should:

    6. compile and make available to the general public appropriate information concerning the different types of violence and their consequences for victims, including integrated statistical data, using all the available media (press, radio and television, etc.);

    7. mobilise public opinion by organising or supporting conferences and information campaigns so that society is aware of the problem and its devastating effects on victims and society in general and can therefore discuss the subject of violence towards women openly, without prejudice or preconceived ideas;

    8. include in the basic training programmes of members of the police force, judicial personnel and the medical and social fields, elements concerning the treatment of domestic violence, as well as all other forms of violence affecting women;

    9. include in the vocational training programmes of these personnel, information and training so as to give them the means to detect and manage crisis situations and improve the manner in which victims are received, listened to and counselled;

    10. encourage the participation of these personnel in specialised training programmes, by integrating the latter in a merit-awarding scheme;

    11. encourage the inclusion of questions concerning violence against women in the training of judges;

    12. encourage self-regulating professions, such as therapists, to develop strategies against sexual abuse which could be committed by persons in positions of authority;

    13. organise awareness-raising campaigns on male violence towards women, stressing that men should be responsible for their acts and encouraging them to analyse and dismantle mechanisms of violence and to adopt different behaviour;

    14. introduce or reinforce a gender perspective in human rights education programmes, and reinforce sex education programmes that give special importance to gender equality and mutual respect;

    15. ensure that both boys and girls receive a basic education that avoids social and cultural patterns, prejudices and stereotyped roles for the sexes and includes training in assertiveness skills, with special attention to young people in difficulty at school; train all members of the teaching profession to integrate the concept of gender equality in their teaching;

    16. include specific information in school curricula on the rights of children, help-lines, institutions where they can seek help and persons they can turn to in confidence.


    Member states should:

    17. encourage the media to promote a non-stereotyped image of women and men based on respect for the human person and human dignity and to avoid programmes associating violence and sex; as far as possible, these criteria should also be taken into account in the field of the new information technologies;

    18. encourage the media to participate in information campaigns to alert the general public to violence against women;

    19. encourage the organisation of training to inform media professionals and alert them to the possible consequences of programmes that associate violence and sex;

    20. encourage the elaboration of codes of conduct for media professionals, which would take into account the issue of violence against women and, in the terms of reference of media watch organisations, existing or to be established, encourage the inclusion of tasks dealing with issues concerning violence against women and sexism.

    Local, regional and urban planning

    Member states should:

    21. encourage decision-makers in the field of local, regional and urban planning to take into account the need to reinforce women's safety and to prevent the occurrence of violent acts in public places;

    22. as far as possible, take all necessary measures in this respect, concerning in particular public lighting, organisation of public transport and taxi services, design and planning of car parks and residential buildings.

    Assistance for and protection of victims (reception, treatment and counselling)

    Member states should:

    23. ensure that victims, without any discrimination, receive immediate and comprehensive assistance provided by a co-ordinated, multidisciplinary and professional effort, whether or not they lodge a complaint, including medical and forensic medical examination and treatment, together with post-traumatic psychological and social support as well as legal assistance; this should be provided on a confidential basis, free of charge and be available around the clock;

    24. in particular, ensure that all services and legal remedies available for victims of domestic violence are provided to immigrant women upon their request;

    25. take all the necessary measures in order to ensure that collection of forensic evidence and information is carried out according to standardised protocol and forms;

    26. provide documentation particularly geared to victims, informing them in a clear and comprehensible manner of their rights, the service they have received and the actions they could envisage or take, regardless of whether they are lodging a complaint or not, as well as of their possibilities to continue to receive psychological, medical and social support and legal assistance;

    27. promote co-operation between the police, health and social services and the judiciary system in order to ensure such co-ordinated actions, and encourage and support the establishment of a collaborative network of non-governmental organisations;

    28. encourage the establishment of emergency services such as anonymous, free of charge telephone help-lines for victims of violence and/or persons confronted or threatened by situations of violence; regularly monitor calls and evaluate the data obtained from the assistance provided with due respect for data protection standards;

    29. ensure that the police and other law-enforcement bodies receive, treat and counsel victims in an appropriate manner, based on respect for human beings and dignity, and handle complaints confidentially; victims should be heard without delay by specially-trained staff in premises that are designed to establish a relationship of confidence between the victim and the police officer and ensure, as far as possible, that the victims of violence have the possibility to be heard by a female officer should they so wish;

    30. to this end, take steps to increase the number of female police officers at all levels of responsibility;

    31. ensure that children are suitably cared for in a comprehensive manner by specialised staff at all the relevant stages (initial reception, police, public prosecutor’s department and courts) and that the assistance provided is adapted to the needs of the child;

    32. take steps to ensure the necessary psychological and moral support for children who are victims of violence by setting up appropriate facilities and providing trained staff to treat the child from initial contact to recovery; these services should be provided free of charge;

    33. take all necessary measures to ensure that none of the victims suffer secondary (re)victimisation or any gender-insensitive treatment by the police, health and social personnel responsible for assistance, as well as by judiciary personnel.

    Criminal law, civil law and judicial proceedings

    Criminal law

    Member states should:

    34. ensure that criminal law provides that any act of violence against a person, in particular physical or sexual violence, constitutes a violation of that person’s physical, psychological and/or sexual freedom and integrity, and not solely a violation of morality, honour or decency;

    35. provide for appropriate measures and sanctions in national legislation, making it possible to take swift and effective action against perpetrators of violence and redress the wrong done to women who are victims of violence. In particular, national law should:

    - penalise sexual violence and rape between spouses, regular or occasional partners and cohabitants;

    - penalise any sexual act committed against non-consenting persons, even if they do not show signs of resistance;

    - penalise sexual penetration of any nature whatsoever or by any means whatsoever of a non-consenting person;

    - penalise any abuse of the vulnerability of a pregnant, defenceless, ill, physically or mentally handicapped or dependent victim;

    - penalise any abuse of the position of a perpetrator, and in particular of an adult vis-à-vis a child.

    Civil law

    Member states should:

    36. ensure that, in cases where the facts of violence have been established, victims receive appropriate compensation for any pecuniary, physical, psychological, moral and social damage suffered, corresponding to the degree of gravity, including legal costs incurred;

    37. envisage the establishment of financing systems in order to compensate victims.

    Judicial proceedings

    Member states should:

    38. ensure that all victims of violence are able to institute proceedings as well as, where appropriate, public or private organisations with legal personality acting in their defence, either together with the victims or on their behalf;

    39. make provisions to ensure that criminal proceedings can be initiated by the public prosecutor;

    40. encourage prosecutors to regard violence against women and children as an aggravating or decisive factor in deciding whether or not to prosecute in the public interest;

    41. take all necessary steps to ensure that at all stages in the proceedings, the victims’ physical and psychological state is taken into account and that they may receive medical and psychological care;

    42. envisage the institution of special conditions for hearing victims or witnesses of violence in order to avoid the repetition of testimony and to lessen the traumatising effects of proceedings;

    43. ensure that rules of procedure prevent unwarranted and/or humiliating questioning for the victims or witnesses of violence, taking into due consideration the trauma that they have suffered in order to avoid further trauma;

    44. where necessary, ensure that measures are taken to protect victims effectively against threats and possible acts of revenge;

    45. take specific measures to ensure that children’s rights are protected during proceedings;

    46. ensure that children are accompanied, at all hearings, by their legal representative or an adult of their choice, as appropriate, unless the court gives a reasoned decision to the contrary in respect of that person;

    47. ensure that children are able to institute proceedings through the intermediary of their legal representative, a public or private organisation or any adult of their choice approved by the legal authorities and, if necessary, to have access to legal aid free of charge;

    48. provide that, for sexual offences and crimes, any limitation period does not commence until the day on which the victim reaches the age of majority;

    49. provide for the requirement of professional confidentiality to be waived on an exceptional basis in the case of persons who may learn of cases of children subject to sexual violence in the course of their work, as a result of examinations carried out or of information given in confidence.

    Intervention programmes for the perpetrators of violence

    Member states should:

    50. organise intervention programmes designed to encourage perpetrators of violence to adopt a violence-free pattern of behaviour by helping them to become aware of their acts and recognise their responsibility;

    51. provide the perpetrator with the possibility to follow intervention programmes, not as an alternative to sentence, but as an additional measure aiming at preventing violence; participation in such programmes should be offered on a voluntary basis;

    52. consider establishing specialised state-approved intervention centres for violent men and support centres initiated by NGOs and associations within the resources available;

    53. ensure co-operation and co-ordination between intervention programmes directed towards men and those dealing with the protection of women.

    Additional measures with regard to sexual violence

    A genetic data bank

    Member states should:

    54. consider setting up national and European data banks comprising the genetic profile of all identified and non-identified perpetrators of sexual violence in order to put in place an effective policy to catch offenders, prevent re-offending, and taking into account the standards laid down by domestic legislation and the Council of Europe in this field.

    Additional measures with regard to violence within the family

    Member states should:

    55. classify all forms of violence within the family as criminal offence;

    56. revise and/or increase the penalties, where necessary, for deliberate assault and battery committed within the family, whichever member of the family is concerned;

    57. preclude adultery as an excuse for violence within the family;

    58. envisage the possibility of taking measures in order to:

    a. enable police forces to enter the residence of an endangered person, arrest the perpetrator and ensure that he or she appears before the judge;

    b. enable the judiciary to adopt, as interim measures aimed at protecting the victims, the banning of a perpetrator from contacting, communicating with or approaching the victim, residing in or entering certain defined areas;

    c. establish a compulsory protocol for operation so that the police and medical and social services follow the same procedure;

    d. promote pro-active victim protection services which take the initiative to contact the victim as soon as a report is made to the police;

    e. ensure smooth co-operation of all relevant institutions, such as police authorities, courts and victim protection services, in order to enable the victim to take all relevant legal and practical measures for receiving assistance and taking actions against the perpetrator within due time limits and without unwanted contact with the perpetrator;

    f. penalise all breaches of the measures imposed on the perpetrators by the authorities.

    59. consider, where needed, granting immigrant women who have been/are victims of domestic violence an independent right to residence in order to enable them to leave their violent husbands without having to leave the host country.

    Additional measures with regard to sexual harassment

    Member states should:

    60. take steps to prohibit all conducts of a sexual nature, or other conduct based on sex affecting the dignity of women at work, including the behaviour of superiors and colleagues: all conduct of a sexual nature for which the perpetrator makes use of a position of authority, wherever it occurs (including situations such as neighbourhood relations, relations between students and teachers, telephone harassment, etc.), is concerned. These situations constitute a violation of the dignity of persons;

    61. promote awareness, information and prevention of sexual harassment in the workplace or in relation to work or wherever it may occur and take the appropriate measures to protect women and men from such conduct.

    Additional measures with regard to genital mutilation

    Member states should:

    62. penalise any mutilation of a woman's or girl's genital organs either with or without her consent; genital mutilation is understood to mean sewing up of the clitoris, excision, clitoridectomy and infibulation;

    63. penalise any person who has deliberately participated in, facilitated or encouraged any form of female genital mutilation, with or without the person's consent; such acts shall be punishable even if only partly performed;

    64. organise information and prevention campaigns aimed at the population groups concerned, in particular immigrants and refugees, on the health risks to victims and the criminal penalties for perpetrators;

    65. alert the medical professions, in particular doctors responsible for pre- and post-natal medical visits and for monitoring the health of children;

    66. arrange for the conclusion or reinforcement of bilateral agreements concerning prevention, and prohibition of female genital mutilation and the prosecution of perpetrators;

    67. consider the possibility of granting special protection to these women as a threatened group for gender-based reasons.

    Additional measures concerning violence in conflict and post-conflict situations

    Member states should:

    68. penalise all forms of violence against women and children in situations of conflict, in accordance with the provisions of international humanitarian law, whether they occur in the form of humiliation, torture, sexual slavery or death resulting from these actions;

    69. penalise rape, sexual slavery, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation or any other form of sexual violence of comparable gravity as an intolerable violation of human rights, as crimes against humanity and, when committed in the context of an armed conflict, as war crimes;

    70. ensure protection of witnesses before the national courts and international criminal tribunals trying genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, and provide them with legal residence at least during the proceedings;

    71. ensure social and legal assistance to all persons called to testify before the national courts and international criminal tribunals trying genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes;

    72. consider providing refugee status or subsidiary protection for reasons of gender-based persecution and/or providing residence status on humanitarian grounds to women victims of violence during conflicts;

    73. support and fund NGOs providing counselling and assistance to victims of violence during conflicts and in post-conflict situations;

    74. in post-conflict situations, promote the inclusion of issues specific to women into the reconstruction and the political renewal process in affected areas;

    75. at national and international levels, ensure that all interventions in areas which have been affected by conflicts are performed by personnel who have been offered gender-sensitive training;

    76. support and fund programmes which follow a gender-sensitive approach in providing assistance to victims of conflicts and contributing to the reconstruction and repatriation efforts following a conflict.

    Additional measures concerning violence in institutional environments

    Member states should:

    77. penalise all forms of physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned by the state or its officials, wherever it occurs and in particular in prisons or detention centres, psychiatric institutions, etc;

    78. penalise all forms of physical, sexual and psychological violence perpetrated or condoned in situations in which the responsibility of the state or of a third party may be invoked, for example in boarding schools, retirement homes and other establishments.

    Additional measures concerning failure to respect freedom of choice with regard to reproduction

    Member states should:

    79. prohibit enforced sterilisation or abortion, contraception imposed by coercion or force, and pre-natal selection by sex, and take all necessary measures to this end.

    Additional measures concerning killings in the name of honour

    Member states should:

    80. penalise all forms of violence against women and children committed in accordance with the custom of “killings in the name of honour”;

    81. take all necessary measures to prevent “killings in the name of honour”, including information campaigns aimed at the population groups and the professionals concerned, in particular judges and legal personnel;

    82. penalise anyone having deliberately participated in, facilitated or encouraged a “killing in the name of honour”;

    83. support NGOs and other groups which combat these practices.

    Additional measures concerning early marriages

    Member states should:

    84. prohibit forced marriages, concluded without the consent of the persons concerned;

    85. take the necessary measures to prevent and stop practices related to the sale of children.

Note 1 In conformity with Article 10.2c of the Rules of Procedure of the Ministers’ Deputies, Sweden reserved its right to comply or not with paragraph 54 of this recommendation.



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