Measures against violence against women: federal government in no hurry

In the Istanbul Convention, the German government pledges to create support services for women. In fact, however, little is being done.

Women’s March in Berlin: This woman demonstrated against misogyny in January Photo: Stefan Boness/Ipon

With the ratification of the Istanbul Convention a year ago, the German government committed itself to systematically combating violence against women and girls. Now, the Left Party asked about the status of implementation by means of a Bundestag question and was anything but satisfied. "The government is evading the obligations of the convention. This is more than disappointing," said Cornelia Mohring, women’s policy spokeswoman for the parliamentary group.

The Istanbul Convention is a Council of Europe convention to prevent and combat violence against women, signed in Istanbul in 2011. It creates binding legal standards against violence, prescribes gender equality in constitutions and aims to improve the situation of women with prevention, education, support services and functioning law enforcement. The international treaty has since been signed by 46 states, with 33 ratifying it.

"The German government seems to believe that it can simply put its signature under human rights agreements and that this will satisfy the treaty," Mohring said. Many obligations have yet to be fulfilled, he said, such as the establishment of a federal-level coordinating body and an independent monitoring body. The establishment of an independent research institute on violence against women is also not planned.

"Germany already fulfills the requirements of the Istanbul Convention," on the other hand, is the federal government’s response. So far, however, this has applied at most to the adaptation of laws. At the end of 2016, for example, the German government reformed Germany’s criminal law on sexual offenses on the basis of the convention. However, it has not yet addressed structural problems.

Women’s shelters are a matter for the states

The government still has no solution for the severe lack of space in women’s shelters, for example, Mohring said. The financing of a nationwide support system for women is a matter for the states, the federal government counters. In 2019, however, the federal funding program "Together against Violence against Women" is to start testing concepts to close the gaps, she said.

"At the moment, we are seeing a decline in women’s shelter places, although the need is increasing. With such a policy, the government is putting human lives at risk," Mohring said. The most recent figures from the federal government date back to 2012, when there was a shortage of around 1,300 women’s shelter places.

Also missing are plans for special assistance measures for older or homeless women. "Older women have the opportunity (…) to take advantage of the same offers as women and girls of a younger age," the federal government’s answer states. And, "The assistance offered by (…) protection and counseling facilities is generally also open to homeless women."

Additional, specialized assistance services for digital violence are also not planned. For example, the government merely referred to the "Active against Digital Violence" project, which has been running since 2017, without elaborating on its scope or possible expansion. Among other things, the project supports further training for counselors in dealing with cyberstalking.