ATHENS – Violence against women and their abuse “is unfortunately a global phenomenon of unique resilience in time, with particularly traumatic repercussions,” Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou said on Tuesday, at a round-table discussion including the visiting king and queen of the Netherlands and officials from both countries.
The discussion took place at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center and included among other officials Deputy Labor and Social Affairs Minister Maria Syrengela and Dutch Deputy Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport Maarten van Ooijen.
Before the discussion, King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands with Sakellaropoulou and Syregela were given a tour of a photography exhibit “Resilience, stories of women inspiring change” by World Press Photo executive director Joumana El Zein Khoury.
During the round-table discussion, Greece and the Netherlands exchanged information on the practices of each country in cases of violence against women.
President Sakellaropoulou spoke of the different kinds of violence, including the so-called honor crimes – and said violence “could occur to anyone, anywhere, not in marginalized groups or specific social strata alone, or in totalitarian and theocratic regimes only.” She also spoke of the “shocking and deeply concerning” crimes of femicide in Greece recently, and called for promoting awareness and supporting the self-confidence of women. “It is our duty to support and fight for the equality of the sexes anywhere in the world, as this comprises a fundamental human right, an intrasector issue of vital importance for a healthy and productive society that looks to the future,” she underlined.
Following the conclusion of the discussion, Deputy Minister Syrengela told Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA-MPA) that “it is important to foster collaborations, because we get good practices, such as those from the Netherlands today, as this phenomenon has become part of our daily agenda. Not that this didn’t happen in the past, but women kept silent then. Now women speak out, and that’s what we want: we want charges to increase, because we are also aware there is also shadow violence, which is often not denounced.”
There is “still a long way to go,” Syrengela told ANA-MPA, but the most important thing is that “society has now started to get involved in these issues – we are seeing a male or female neighbor call up, a male or female friend, to report violence, so there is a change in mentality.” She added that society, the state, the public and private sectors, and the society of citizens need to work together to effect change. “We are seeing a lot of men taking a stance to defend human rights, because these are not solely women’s issues, they are human rights. And in this, men and women must stand together,” she noted.