CSW60: Children, invisible victims of gender violence

Statement by State Secretary Tone Skogen at the CSW60 side-event Children: invisible victims of gender violence, at Instituto Cervantes, 16 March 2016.

| Commission on the Status of Women

Check against delivery.

Ladies and gentlemen,

First I would like to thank the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality for inviting me to this event on violence against women. There is no doubt that more still needs to be done to eliminate gender-based violence and gender inequality in society. And I look forward to productive discussions on lessons learned and good practices.

The Norwegian Government's view is clear. Violence against women, including domestic violence, is unacceptable. The consequences for the victims are devastating, and the costs for the society are huge. Violence must be prevented and alleviated through measures to help and protect the victims, but it must also be addressed through prosecution and treatment of the perpetrators.

In Norway we use the phrase 'violence in close relationships' to describe the many different forms of violence in this context: intimate partner violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), so called honour-based crime, violence against the elderly, and sexual and physical abuse of children. These forms of violence have common characteristics – the victims are mainly women and children, and the violence is perpetrated by a person or persons known to the victim.

A nationwide survey carried out in 2014 showed that approximately 9 % of women over 15 years of age have been victims of severe violence from their current or former partner once or more in the course of their lives.

Recent media reports indicate that domestic violence is particularly common in certain immigrant populations, indicating that cultural components as well as challenges relating to integration are a part of this complex issue.

In the last decade, intimate partner homicide accounted for 20–30 % of the total number of killings in Norway. In more than half of the cases in which women were killed, the perpetrator was the victim's present or former partner. A three-year research project has been initiated to review all intimate partner killings from 1991 to 2012 to identify risk factors and develop more effective prevention strategies.

Although pervasive, violence against women is still largely invisible. Sustained by a culture of silence and shame, many cases of violence in close relationships are never reported. It is important to take this factor into account. We have had some success in addressing the invisibility of this crime, resulting in a sharp rise in the number of reported cases over the last few years. A total of 3075 cases were reported in 2014 – an increase of 24 % from 2010.

This increase is thought to be due to stronger focus on the issue and intensified efforts on the part of the police to address violence in close relationships. In Norway, it is the local authorities that are responsible for taking care of victims of gender-based violence. Until 2010, many of the shelters were private institutions that relied in part on voluntary work.

In spring 2009, new legislation was passed that imposes a legal obligation on local authorities to provide shelter services and coordinated assistance for victims of violence in close relationships. The new law emphasises that it is a public responsibility to make sure that victims of domestic violence receive protection and assistance.

For the vast majority of parents in Norway, nothing is more important than the well-being of their children. Still, for some children, violence is a part of daily life. Extensive research shows how traumatic domestic violence can be for children, whether the violence is directed at a parent or the child itself. Violence can lead to extensive cognitive, social, psychological and physical problems in both the short and the long term. Violence against children and adolescents is a serious public health challenge.

A nationwide survey carried out in 2014, showed that approximately 4.9 % of women and 5.1 % of men had been subjected to serious violence by a parent or legal guardian. An equivalent percentage of women and men – 10 % – had witnessed physical violence between their parents during childhood.

The Norwegian Government has established a nationwide network of Children's Houses – built on the Icelandic model. Children's Houses are a service for children and young people under 16 years of age, and for adults with intellectual disabilities, who are believed to have been exposed to violence or sexual abuse, or to have witnessed such violence. These are cases that have been reported to the police.

Children's Houses are also child advocacy centres where judicial examination, medical examinations, treatment and follow-up can all be carried out in the same place. They are focal points for enhancing the skills of professionals who work with children or with adults with intellectual disabilities, and for improving cooperation between agencies in violence and abuse cases. As of January 2016, 10 Children's Houses have been established in Norway.

All Children's Houses reflect the same basic idea: the various professionals who are involved in such cases provide their services in one place, with a child-friendly set-up and secure atmosphere.

The EEA and Norway Grants, which are funded by Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein, promote social and economic development in the European Economic Area. Preventing and addressing violence against women is one of the programme areas in the Grants scheme. From 2009 to 2014, Norway contributed EUR 24.6 million to projects on preventing and addressing violence against women and girls in beneficiary countries.

Our bilateral exchange with Spain in this area has been mutually enriching, not least due to the wide range of stakeholders involved, including ministries, municipalities, companies, NGOs and individuals from Norway and Spain. Both countries have benefited from this cooperation because it has been a two-way process.

Although Norway is considered to be one of the most gender-equal countries in the world, we still have a number of challenges to overcome. As a follow-on from our cooperation with Spain, Norway has launched a pilot project in the municipality of Sør-Odal in eastern Norway on the integration of victims of domestic violence into the labour market through close cooperation with local businesses and shelters. Norway is using the Spanish model as best practice for this project.

Gender-based violence generates a feeling of worthlessness in victims, reducing their self-confidence and self-esteem. This further aggravates their situation and makes it hard for many to take part in the labour market. Women who don't work, have little income, and are thus more dependent on their abusers, with few prospects of starting a new life.

The Spanish model has made it possible to provide employment to quite a number of previously unemployed women who have been subject to domestic violence. It involves cooperation between the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, private companies that offer jobs to women in this situation, and relevant organisations that can support these women in their working life.

Between one-fifth and one-quarter of all women in Europe have experienced physical violence at least once during their adult lives, often alongside years of emotional abuse. More than one-tenth have suffered sexual violence involving the use of force. Eradicating such violence is a challenge for all European countries.

Violence against women is a major obstacle to achieving the goal of equality between men and women in society, and all countries should work together to eliminate what can only be called a social curse.

Thank you very much for your attention.