More women seek shelter from domestic violence

Swiss women are becoming more aware of how to escape domestic violence swissinfo.ch

The number of women seeking shelter from domestic violence has hit record levels in Switzerland.

This content was published on November 25, 2003 - 21:55

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Swiss foreign minister, Micheline Calmy-Rey, called for a concerted effort to combat the problem.

According to a survey by the Swiss organisation, Women’s Shelter, 989 women escaping abusive partners temporarily stayed in refuge centres in 2002. This represents a 20 per cent increase since 2001.

Women’s Shelter said this rise was due to measures recently taken by authorities to combat domestic violence, which have raised awareness among victims.

Changes to Swiss law are currently underway to modify the law to give the authorities the power to intervene in cases of domestic violence without waiting for the victim to make a complaint herself.

Previously the police could do nothing unless the victims spoke out, and many were too afraid to do so.

Domestic violence would also be classed as a specific crime rather than falling into the category of grievous bodily harm - making it easier for the courts to handle cases.

Long-term support

Monique Aeschbacher, head of the Federal Office for Gender Equality’s new Service Against Violence – launched by the government in May - says although it is encouraging to see more victims seeking shelter from domestic violence, the aid must not end there.

“The support does not only consist of having somewhere to stay for several days,” she told swissinfo. “Life goes on and they need help in finding work, for example, so they can be independent of their husbands. Money is one of the reasons why women go back to their partners.”

Aeschbacher added that the influx of women means shelters often don’t have enough space to accommodate everyone.

Global issue

Speaking at an international conference to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, Calmy-Rey said domestic violence was a “silent catastrophe from a human, economic and social point of view”.

Citing a survey conducted in 1997, which found that one in five women in Switzerland were victims of domestic abuse, Calmy-Rey said these figures reflected the global situation.

Organised by the foreign ministry, the conference brought together specialists on violence against women from the federal office for gender equality, the United Nations and Amnesty International, among others.

Calmy-Rey called on Switzerland to do more to combat violence against women, both in Switzerland and across the world.

She pointed out the foreign ministry is working with a number of countries to this end as well as contributing to projects by international organisations including the United Nations.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

In 2002, 989 women sought temporary shelter from abusive partners, representing an increase of 20 per cent since 2001.

This increase was attributed to a growing awareness of domestic violence with the introduction of new laws to combat it.

The Swiss foreign ministry organised a conference to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

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