Applying Council of Europe legal instruments to the prevention of violence against women in the digital world, protection of victims and prosecution of perpetrators is the central theme of the conference held in Strasbourg today under the Icelandic Presidency of the Council of Europe.
Marija Pejčinović Burić, Secretary General of the Council of Europe stressed that the online abuse of women “shows no sign of stopping”. The women and girls affected by this violence may feel physically unsafe, lose self-esteem and self-confidence, and suffer from mental and emotional distress.
Primary targets include women politicians, journalists and human rights defenders – women who are dedicated to speaking out and improving the lives of others in our societies,” the Secretary General stressed. Such online abuse may force women to stop contributing to online debates and activism, and this is “the very outcome that many of the abusers seek”.
To stop this, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO) developed in 2021 a recommendation to the states parties of the Istanbul Convention on the digital dimension of violence against women, to provide guidance on the application of the treaty’s provisions to violence against women committed in the digital sphere. The Budapest Convention and its 2nd Additional Protocol on enhanced cooperation and disclosure of electronic evidence offer tools to investigate crimes and obtain evidence across border and to ensure the necessary international co-operation, not only on crimes committed online, but in dealing with all the offences where electronic evidence is implicated. “It is essential to use both of these instruments -for combatting cybercrime and violence against women – to ensure the safest environment possible for women online”, Secretary General noted.
The President of Iceland, Guðni T. Jóhannesson, in his address to the conference participants stressed the need of further progress on gender equality and fighting online violence.
“When I was growing up, Iceland was a male dominated society – not anymore,” he said.
“Now my children are growing up in a society where cybercrime seems to be on the rise. Let’s take it seriously. Let’s find and implement countermeasures that work.”
„Then our children will be able to say in the future: When I was growing up, cybercrime was common – not anymore. Because we did something about it. Because of people like you.”