WASHINGTON – The United States Helsinki Commission held a briefing today to survey domestic violence in participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
The briefing examined research data on domestic violence in the OSCE region with a focus on Albania, Armenia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Ukraine, the United States and Uzbekistan. The briefing examined the extent to which governments, particularly law enforcement authorities, have fulfilled their responsibilities to protect individuals from such abuse.
Helsinki Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith moderated the briefing.
“Domestic violence is perhaps the most pervasive human rights abuse in the world,” said Co-Chairman Smith. “Last year I worked for passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act which addressed the barbaric practice of human trafficking and re-authorized the Violence Against Women Act.”
Panelists at the briefing included Robin Phillips, Director of the Women’s Human Rights Program, Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights; Winnie Bartel, Executive Chair of the World Evangelical Fellowship’s Commission on Women’s Concerns and the Task Force to Stop Abuse Against Women; and Nancy Murphy, Executive Director of the Northwest Family Life Learning and Counseling Center.
“Women are being seriously injured and killed by their husbands and intimate partners in countries around the world, including countries in the OSCE region,” said Phillips. “Women’s human rights are being systematically violated and the governments of these countries are not responding appropriately to the problem.”
In many OSCE countries “the police do not take the problem seriously. They do not respond to calls for assistance or when they do respond, they do not remove the perpetrators from the home,” Phillips added. “These governments are not complying with their obligations under international human rights law to protect the human rights of everyone in their countries.”
“In our modern world today, women are increasingly filling significant roles in business and society, as well as in the church and in the home. However, along with these greater responsibilities has come a proverbial onslaught of all forms of abuse,” said Bartel.
“As a world leader in the evangelical church, I sadly share with you that – battered and bruised, hundreds of thousands of women quietly fill houses of worship around the world, keeping silent about the secret that rules their lives: they are victims of domestic violence and abuse,” Bartel added.
“Spiritual leaders have a valuable, distinct role in the fight to end violence in the family, but their practical and emotional assistance is far more effective when offered alongside the resources of other professionals and agencies,” Bartel said.
“In addition to being a psychological issue, a legal issue, a social issue, and a religious issue, domestic violence is a human rights issue,” Nancy Murphy said. “If there is no excuse for domestic violence, if safety in the home is to be our basic human right, then we must come together to close the gap that exists to permit such a crime.”
“We must insist that the problem is resident within the one who does the abusing, the one who exercises power and control over another in an intimate relationship,” Murphy said. “We must call the abusers to account for their actions and persist in the work of facing them with the consequences of their behavior.”