‘Legal reforms and best practices’

Minister Bussemaker (OCW) speeched during the ‘Legal reforms and best practices’ Turkey side event, New York, March 4, 2013.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you very much for inviting me here to speak today.

I think it is very special that our countries, that have already shared such a rich history for four hundred years, are also collaborating on an important issue for the future: combating violence against women.

In recent years Turkey and the Netherlands have become international allies in encouraging and promoting gender equality. And in the years to come, we in the Netherlands wish to continue to work together to address and prevent domestic violence and violence against women.

During an Expert Meeting last month, our countries explored various avenues of cooperation with regard to domestic violence and women’s shelters. And we will be developing informational materials for Turkish women in the Netherlands, so they know their rights when it comes to marriage migration, domestic violence and divorce.

Today, too, we will be exchanging [of: have been exchanging / als je spreekt aan het einde van de bijeenkomst] best practices, and exploring further cooperation. This kind of cooperation is sorely needed, unfortunately.

Forty-two percent (42%) of Turkish women and about as many Dutch women come face to face with domestic violence at some point in their lives.

Turkey has taken on an active role in combating violence against women. It was the first country to ratify the CAHVIO convention, now rightly and deservedly [spreek uit: dih-zur-vid-lee / betekenis hier is: ‘en dat is terecht’] known as the ‘Istanbul Convention’. Last year’s enactment of the Law to protect the family and prevent violence against women is yet another clear signal that Turkey is serious about tackling domestic violence.

As the Dutch Minister for Emancipation, I feel that women must be able to count on the authorities in cases of violence - whether it happens at home, at work or on the street. Turkey should be proud of what has been achieved so far.

At the same time, we must also recognize that violence against women is not something that government can completely resolve or combat with rules, legislation and programmes. Society, both men and women, must also be willing to look at the underlying causes of violence, at the systems that facilitate violence and at the factors that contribute to vulnerability among women.

Violence against women does not simply happen of its own accord. It may occur wherever economic, political and social inequalities between women and men prevail. Along with this inequality, violence is often also passed on from generation to generation. From father to son. And from mother to daughter.

If we wish to put an end to violence against women, then we will have to intervene in this vile system. This is why I would like to touch on two related topics today:
•    First, the Oranje Huis, a refuge shelter that takes a new approach to helping women who are confronted with domestic violence.
•    Second, the integrated approach we take to tackling domestic violence in the Netherlands, in which the treatment of perpetrators features prominently.

I visited an Oranje Huis facility in January. While there, I saw for myself just how hurt and afraid the women and children are who have been abused and threatened at home. But I also saw just how much strength and confidence this safe refuge gave them.

What makes this shelter so special is that its location is not secret. Security is ensured because visitors may only enter through a secured door, where they are identified and checked. But once beyond the security measures, the atmosphere is open and welcoming. Family and friends can come to visit the women in the shelter. For them, this often means the end of years of isolation. And hopefully the beginning of a life without violence.

The openness of the Oranje Huis facility serves as a counterbalance and an antidote to the shame and taboo that often accompanies domestic violence. Women seeking shelter here do not have to hide.
They learn to discover and appreciate their own strengths and capabilities, and they learn how to ask for help when they need it. Coming from this safe environment, they can once again resume their lives and also get help for their children. If they wish, they can also get their partners involved.

The shelter and care that women receive in the Oranje Huis remind me of a quote that is attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt: “It is better to light a candle, than to curse the darkness.”

It is better focus squarely on the true nature of domestic violence, than to conceal or ignore it. That goes for the victims, but it applies equally well to the perpetrators of violence against women.

This brings me to my second point: our integrated approach to domestic violence, which is system-oriented. This means that attention is focused not only on the victims, but also on the perpetrators of violence.

In the past, the standard operating procedure in cases of domestic violence was that the woman would flee the home. Sometimes there is no alternative, and shelters such as the Oranje Huis are available for this purpose. In the integrated approach, the aim is for the woman to stay at home, while her partner goes elsewhere.

Often, escaping the spiral of violence means that women must be empowered and must change their behavior. But if we ignore the perpetrators’ role in this process, or simply resort to punishing them, then nothing really changes. The integrated approach is therefore aimed at helping perpetrators of violence learn how to change their behavior.

If necessary, a restraining order will be issued against the perpetrator of domestic violence. He may then not come home for ten days and is also prohibited from seeking contact with the victim. This gives social services time to start working in the interest of both victim and perpetrator. Due consideration is also given to any children involved, and we also see whether there are any other problems besides violence, for example with finances or work.

Subsequently, the treatment offered to perpetrators is aimed at helping them become aware of their behavior and understanding why they resort to violence. Specially trained social workers teach them techniques for solving a conflict or argument without the need for physical violence.

When addressing the problem of domestic violence, we therefore focus on both victim and perpetrator, on the problem and the solution. It’s not one or the other, but a combination of the two. With the aim of helping people to resume their lives self-sufficiently, either on their own or with their partner, but in any case without violence.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I hope that our countries continue to work together in the coming years to stop violence against women. Last February’s Expert Meeting made clear that cooperation and sharing best practices are highly worthwhile. I hope that this meeting will prove to be just as valuable.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.