Historical archive

- a Norwegian lesson learned

Lifting Domestic Violence from the Private to the Public Sphere

Historical archive

Published under: Stoltenberg's 2nd Government

Publisher Ministry of Children and Equality

Gender based violence is the utmost expression of unequal status for women; to work for gender equality is therefore a prerequisite to abolish gender based violence. A vital basis for gender equality, is economic independence for women; economic power.

Reflections/background rationale:

  • No nation, world-wide, can prove itself free of violence against women and girls.
  • Gender based violence is the utmost expression of unequal status for women; to work for gender equality is therefore a prerequisite to abolish gender based violence. A vital basis for gender equality, is economic independence for women; economic power.
  • Gender based violence and violence within families are not private matters, but highly political. It has taken Norwegian Society almost 30 years to really recognize and act consequent upon this. The first Women’s shelter (NGO) was established with public support in 1978, and the first National, cross-sectorial Action Plan to figth violence against women were launched in 2000.
  • No cultural tradition or religious belief can serve as “excuse” for violence against women and girls. The Human Rights Conventions and National Laws enforcing these, are violated when indviduals are victims of violence. The State party to HR Conventions is obliged to protect any individual against any type of violence, regardless of gender or age.
  • The Global Community has recognized the importance of putting gender based violence high on the Agenda: Through the UN/CEDAW and the Beijing Platform of Action, the regional Commissions under the UN, in my part of the world: CoE and EU and the Nordic Council of Ministers and so forth. This is important as to exchange lessons and experiences and find ways to support cooperation between public authorities , NGOs and research communities. What works and what does not work ? The balance between legal actions/strengthening Penal Codes/educating police force, prosecutors and judges and helping the victims ? Sensitising the female and male population as to prevent domestic violence along with treating the perpetrators ?

Norwegian lessons learned:

  • NGOs work (since 1887) for women’s rights; from the 1960’s targetting also domestic, gender-based violence has been extremely important.
  • With steadily more women entering the work force thorugh the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s, voices were simoultaneously raised against domestic violence
  • Establishing (NGOs) shelters for abused women (and children) started in 1978, from 1982 with 50 % State Support. Today theses shelters number 50, with now 80 % State Support. Two main organizations constitute what we name as “the Shelter Movement”
  • National Authorities responded to the demands from NGOs and several political parties with the all-encompassing Gender Equality Law (with focus on all forms of discrimination based on sex), a National Gender Equality
  • Ombudsman and a GE Council in 1979
  • At the same time Parliament voted for a very strong Work Environment Act, with focus on harrassment
  • Norway becomes party to CEDAW in 1981 (and incorporated into National Law in full length in 2005)
  • Research and studies on domestic violence emerges; women’s NGOs and left-wing political parties speak openly about the need to lift the discussion on gender based domestic violence out in the open; to call it “a political issue”
  • Parents' rights to physical punishment of their children was abolished in 1972.
  • In 1987 an explicit prohibition against violent treatment of children was adopted (The Act relating to Children and Parents)
  • Rape is prohibited in the Civil Penal Code, even if not explicitly said that this includes rape within marriage. However, the first conviction of rape against a spouse was pronounced by the High Court in 1974.This is now legal status.
  • Health and Social services are asked to raise the competence on treatment og victims of violence
  • Focus on men and perpetrators emerges; the 1st treatment scheme for male offenders/or simply men who acknowledge that they have problems with controlling their aggression,  is opened: “Alternative to Violence” (has worked for 20 years)
  • Centres for support to victims of incest, is emerging, to day there are 18 NGOs, all supported from Stated. Sexual abuse has been the most difficult type of violence against women and children to bring out in the open. Today we acknowledge that many boys are offended, and programs are extended to meet also their needs.
  • A milestone: Coordinated Governmental efforts to combat domestic violence is channeled through the 1st National Action Plan against Violence Against Women (2000 –2003) as an joint effort with substantial budgets from 4 Ministeries, coordinated by the Ministry of Justice. Strong regimes for measuring results of actions – adressed to a committee of deputy Ministers. Responsibilities are very strictly defined in the plan- wether the actor beeing national, regional, or local authority, schools, social partners, work-life, NGOs or police/judges/prosecutor
  • Committee on Violence against Women appointed, delivering in 2003 the Official Report: “The Right to a Life without Violence”,suggesting a whole range of actions ; including legal actions
  • In 2002 a nation-wide system of domestic violence coordinators is established in all police districts (27) Main role is to enhance competence in the police force on how to deal with domestic violence. Cooperating with the Women Shelter Movement.
  • Police Directorate presents in 2002 a Hand-book for the Police Force  for handling domestic violence; based upon research and experiences. Spesific instructions are given to the whole police force.
  • Police Directorate initiates training seminars for the force, and also regional meetings
  • The second National Action Plan is launched in 2004; based upon evaluation of the former and with a set of new actions; based upon research, new statistics and new partners –like Men’s NGOs .Reaches to 2007, and a spesific committee of Deputy Ministers are scrutinizing the work done, and
    setting out for a 3rd National Action Plan to be launched in November 2007; also including honour-based violence as forced marriages and female genital mutilation.
  • In 2005 the Penal Code is strengthened : The perpetrator’s long-term terrorisation and abuse of the next-of-kin constitutes criminal aspects of the act.This strengthen the legal status of women, since women are the main victims of intimate partner violence. The crimes are registered in a new system since 2006: STRASAK
  • A new National Institute of Research on Violence and Traumatic stress is established in 2005 (funded by 5 Ministries)
  • As is 5 regional resource centers on violence and traumatic stress in 2006
  • In 2003 and 2005 the Ministry of Justice and the Police Directorate carried out nationwide surveys –  limited to one week – to collect data on violence (mobilizing the police force, the Child Services, the Family Counselling Offices, the Shelters Movement, Social Services, Health institutions etc) and registered appr.1000 incidents concerning women, and 2000 concerning children (including beeing witness to violence)
  • May 2005: The first nation-wide survey on violence in couples were presented; and more than 1 woman in 4 and more than 1 man in 5 above 15 years of age, reported that their spouse or cohabitant had used violence on at least one occassion.
  • The Women Shelters reports annually to the Government on violence reported by their users; vital stastistics for political actions from the Govt.
    Services for rape victims (inter-municipal) are now provided in all counties in Norway, as a result of the Action Plans, and health care is strengthened
  • Cabinet has appointed (Dec.2006) a public committee to report on the situation for women (and men) beeing subjected to rape or other types of sexual violence. The reasons for so many rapes not beeing reported or prosecuted will be assessed and reasons identified.
  • The Director General of Public Prosecutions delivered this March a report on why so many rape cases ended in acquittals and concludes that there are potential for improvements in how the investigations are carried out, how the prosecution decisions and prosecutions are done.
  • Nation-wide programs to treat male perpetrators are starting up; there are promising findings from pilot projects.
  • A large research program was launched in 2005, devised to interview and work with children who have been witness to violence; since there is strong evidence that beeing a witness to continous violence in the family will affect children strongly and especially boys seem to copy and reproduce violent behaviour

Summing up:

8 main pillars for Norwegian Initatives against domestic, gender –based violence seem to be:

  • Women participating in the formal economy by the rate of 80 %, having their own income, economic power, owning assets.  Beeing independent economically gives strength, power, respect  and not the least: Is vital to the nation’s economy; it pays off  in strict economical terms . ( and women can “walk away “ from abuse beeing economically independent!)
  • Goverments must tell: Domestic violence and violence against women, is not a private matter, but a political , public issue
  • A solid mix of national, cross-sectorial, well coordinated Action Plans  and strong Legal Actions, are needed
  • Action Plans must be measured and scrutinized; “what is not measured is not done”. Accountability !
  • Research, statistics and surveys are most needed ! (data on domestic violence are reported hard to obtain also in Indonesia, acc.to your Country Gender Assessment and CEDAW-reports )
  • Educating and sensitising the police force and the public at large
  • Strong cooperation between the NGOs and Public Authorities
  • Involving men in combatting violence

Most of all, the work for gender equality through enhancing women’s economic independence and power must lie in the bottom of  combatting the evil of genderbased violence. As long as girls and women do not have access to their own income and thus participating in the formal economy, there is hardly possible to encounter domestic violence.

The highly estimated Goldman and Sachs has recently published a Global Economic Paper No. 154 : “Gender Inequality,Growth and Global Ageing”  – on the necessity of reducing the male-female employment gap to boost economies world wide, and gives excamples of percentage points for three parts of the world: US GDP by 9 %, Eurozone GDP with 13 % and Japan with 16 %. The Economist of  April 21st, tells about “Womenomics revisited” and refer to a report done by the UN s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific concluding: “ Sex discrimination in employment costs the region USD 42 billion –47 billion a year by restricting women’s job opportunities. A gap of 30 –40 percentages points between men and women’s workforce participation rates are common.The poor state of girl’s education costs a further USD 16 –30 billion, and those are just the economic costs, before violence against women and acess to health care are counted” (p.82)

I am sure that the linking of reasons for domestic violence to economy is vital.

Without an economic development including women and girls, their freedom to be independent economic actors in the formal economy with pride in contributing to economic development, one will not see progress in fighting violence or building peace – anywhere.