NEW YORK – The Safety of Women: Penal Mediation in Greek Domestic Violence Legislation panel at the United Nations on March 12 traced the historical development of domestic violence legislation and highlighted global perspectives on legal reforms and judicial responses as a part of a comprehensive approach to address domestic violence. The panel also reviewed provisions of the Penal Mediation clause in Greek law and discusses how VIA-STOP, a nonprofit NGO based in Kavala, Greece, implements this program to protect women and children.
Theoretical implications from the domestic violence literature such as power and control, coordinated community response, and restorative justice in relation to the penal mediation program were examined as well. The panel concluded with a conversation about challenges in implementation, and the need for research, training, and standardization of the mediation program to uphold women’s safety.
Part of the 63rd Commission on the Status of Women (CSW 63) at the UN, the panel was hosted by the Permanent Mission of Greece to the UN with the American Society of Criminology (ASC) Division on Women and Crime (DWC). CSW 63 runs from March 11-22.
Moderator and panelist Dr. Sheetal Ranjan, DWC Chair at the American Society of Criminology and Associate Professor at William Paterson University in New Jersey, welcomed all those in attendance and introduced Ms. Maria Theofili, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Greece to the UN, who gave the opening remarks.
The panelists were Ms. Marina Chrysoveloni, Deputy Minister of Interior in charge of Gender Equality; Dr. Sevaste Chatzifotiou, Associate Professor in Democritus University of Thrace; Ms. Kalliopi Mingeirou, Chief, Ending Violence Against Women, UN Women; Ms. Xeni Dimitriou, The General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Greece; and Ms. Eleni Fotou, Forensic Psychologist and Founding Partner of VIA-STOP all spoke eloquently about the positive changes in Greece concerning domestic violence legislation as well as the positive effects similar changes and programs can have for other countries across the globe.
Deputy Minister of Interior in charge of Gender Equality Marina Chrysoveloni highlighted the issues facing gender equality and the progress being made in Greece. Dr. Chatzifotiou offered insights into the changes in Greek domestic violence legislation over the years while Mingeirou spoke about the implications globally for improving the status of women in terms of development goals. Mingeirou also noted it was an honor to be on a panel with her fellow Greeks while Amb. Theofili noted that the panel was also all women. Dr. Ranjan pointed out that she is from India, but has a Greek spirit.
General Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Greece Xeni Dimitriou spoke in Greek about the domestic violence legislation. Fotiou translated Dimitriou’s remarks and then spoke about the VIA-STOP program for domestic violence offenders which shows such positive results that there are no reoffenders among the participants. Dr. Ranjan visited Kavala to see the program in action and the early stages of her research are very promising but more research is needed to develop a sustainable and standardized program that can be applied in other countries.
More information about VIA-STOP is available online: viastop.gr.
Deputy Minister of Interior in charge of Gender Equality Marina Chrysoveloni shared her full remarks from the event. The complete text follows:
“First of all, I would like to cordially thank you for the invitation to participate in today’s event. Since the 1970s, gender equality has constituted a distinct aspect of public policy at international and European level – and in Greece, since 1981, with the establishment of the General Secretariat for Gender Equality as the competent governmental body for gender equality policies. It is the Greek Constitution itself that recognizes the necessity for the State to take measures to promote substantive equality between men and women (Article 116, par. 2).
On the other hand, the multidimensional phenomenon of violence against women, this systematic violation of human rights, is an obstacle to any attempt of development, peace and gender equality in all societies. Although most societies forbid violence, in reality the phenomenon is often covered up or tolerated. Only in Europe, more than 1/3 of women have been victims of violence at some point in their lives, mainly physical and sexual, and according to the World Health Organization, the cases of violence against women outnumber the 35% of women population worldwide.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the prevention and combating of violence against women in Greece has traditionally been top priority for the General Secretariat for Gender Equality of the Ministry of Interior. In our current National Action Plan for Gender Equality 2016-2020 we have incorporated the previous comprehensive and coherent «National Program on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women» implemented since 2010. The Program refers to all forms of gender-based violence, is being co-funded by the E.U. and includes a network of 62 structures:
-the nationwide low-cost bilingual SOS telephone helpline 15900 and the relevant e-mail address (in Greek and English) which operates 24 hours/day and 365 days/year.
-40 Counseling Centers and 21 shelters all over Greece. The services provided by these structures are free of charge and include psychosocial support, legal and labour counseling, emergency shelter and, where necessary, legal aid in cooperation with local Bar Associations. Our goal is to empower women victims of violence and help them regain self-esteem, thus enabling them to make sound decisions for their future, and ultimately gain independence in their personal and professional lives. During the current period, the target group of all services has been expanded to include apart from women victims of gender-based violence, also women victims of multiple discrimination (refugees, single parents, Roma etc.).
In parallel, a public awareness campaign is being implemented and includes seminars, conferences, informational material in several languages, TV and radio spots, cultural events, publicity on public transport, a webpage and a Facebook page as well as banners in web pages.
Since the launch of the Program, approximately 25,000 women have been served in the Counseling Centers and about 1,500 women and children have been accommodated in the Shelters. Over the last five years the trend is upward for all structures (with a small decrease in 2018). This increase can be partially explained by the exacerbation of the economic crisis (especially for the period 2012-2015 the increase was almost five times higher). Of course, the launching of the public awareness campaigns of our national Program on Violence against Women also shed light to the issue. Thereafter, women began to realize the problem, to examine their options and gradually the number of incident reports in our structures started to rise.
As per legislation on gender-based violence, two crucial points should be mentioned. On the one hand, in 2018, Greece ratified by national Law the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Introducing amendments to the existing legal framework [like the existing law on domestic violence and the greek Penal Code), the new law underlines the obligation of the state to fully address gender-based violence in all its forms and to take measures to prevent violence against women, protect its victims and prosecute the perpetrators. The Convention also emphasizes on prevention of gender-based violence through specialized education and awareness programs and specialized measures are envisaged to protect women-victims of violence in order to prevent their secondary victimization, to protect children witnesses of abuse and to establish a mechanism for the monitoring of its implementation.
On the other hand, a bill on Substantive Gender Equality and on combating gender-based violence is now ready to be submitted to the Hellenic Parliament and become national law. It is the first attempt in Greece of drafting a horizontal bill, aiming at the creation of all those circumstances that could lead to the achievement of substantive gender equality and the elimination of gender inequalities in all sectors of public, social and economic life. A chapter is dedicated to details on the GBV network of structures operation and financing.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The problem of gender-based violence is wider than what the numbers show. Most of the time there is underreporting of cases, so the real dimensions of the problem are not obvious. What is needed is to fight stereotypical perceptions, encourage reporting of gender-based violence incidents and combat fear and non-disclosure of all types of violence against women. How to do that? With synergies, coordinated and cross-sectoral action of public and non-governmental organizations, national action plans with a holistic approach, awareness raising campaigns and visibility of the problem not only in mass media but also in social media, interventions in education modules and last but not least with continuous training of field professionals.
Thank you again for your invitation and for your attention today.”