The baseline evaluation report on Greece by the independent expert group (GREVIO) responsible for monitoring implementation of the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (“Istanbul Convention”) welcomes positive steps since Greece became a party to the treaty in October 2018, but also points out shortcomings.
GREVIO praises the establishment of 74 specialised police units to improve law enforcement responses to violence against women, the adoption of guidelines for police intervention in domestic violence cases and enhanced police collection of quantitative and qualitative data on gender-based violence. It also welcomes changes to Greece’s legal framework on violence against women, including the adoption of a definition of rape based on the notion of freely given consent.
The report – which covers the situation as observed by a GREVIO delegation during an evaluation visit to Greece in February 2023 – also raises several concerns.
For example, Greece lacks rape crisis centres and/or sexual violence referral centres, which is especially worrisome since GREVIO’s evaluation highlights “high rates of attrition in cases of violence against women and low conviction rates, particularly in cases of rape”.
Furthermore, only 20 shelters for women victims of violence operate in Greece, with a total capacity of approximately 450 individual beds. Measured against the Istanbul Convention target of one family place per 10,000 head of population, the number of places available in Greece should be “significantly increased,” GREVIO reports. Moreover, Greece has too few counselling programmes for domestic violence perpetrators.
Although GREVIO acknowledges reinforced training for relevant professionals – such as judges and prosecutors who since 2022 undergo mandatory training on gender-based and domestic violence – prejudices and stereotypes still prevail among the judiciary, according to the report. Moreover, GREVIO raises “serious concerns” about lacking safeguards ensuring that incidents of domestic violence are considered when courts determine custody and visitation rights, following the adoption in 2021 of a law on reforms regarding parent-child relations.
The report refers to cases in which abusive husbands have been granted joint custody or unsupervised visiting rights even though they have been convicted for violence, thus jeopardising the safety of children and of their mothers. GREVIO urges the Greek authorities to provide the judiciary with appropriate training about the harmful effects of violence on children and to base policies and practices on the recognition that, in a context of domestic violence, joint parenting may be a means for the perpetrator to continue to maintain control and domination over the mother and her children and to perpetrate violence against them.
Acknowledging challenges Greece faces as a first entry point for asylum seekers, GREVIO is concerned over access of asylum-seeking women victims of gender-based violence to the asylum procedure. GREVIO urges the Greek authorities to address the negative consequences for such women of the implementation of the 2021 Joint Ministerial Decision designating Türkiye as a “safe third country” for asylum seekers from several countries.
Given allegations of violent pushbacks of asylum-seeking women and girls at Greek land and sea borders, GREVIO urges the authorities to uphold their obligation to respect the principle of non-refoulement of women victims of gender-based violence and to take measures to prevent acts of gender-based violence against women and girls seeking international protection in Greece.
The report also expresses “deep concern” over frequent sensationalised reporting on gender-based violence, including gender-based killings of women, by some Greek media outlets which use discriminatory language and disclose the identity of victims, thus breaching their privacy.
Urgent recommendations for the Greek authorities include the following:
- Set up rape crisis centres and/or sexual violence referral centres providing immediate medical care, trauma support, forensic examinations, and immediate, short and long-term psychological assistance by qualified professionals.
- Introduce training and guidelines for all relevant professionals in the criminal justice system to ensure understanding of rape and sexual violence as offences based on the absence of consent, rather than on the use of force.
- Expand the number and capacity of shelters for women victims of violence throughout the country, address the lack of resources allocated for such services and remove any obstacles that hamper victims’ access to such shelters.
- Ensure that children exposed to domestic violence receive counselling and support.
- Run awareness-raising activities targeting different population groups, including men of all ages, to change underlying patriarchal attitudes and promote understanding of gender-based violence against women.
- Make sure that asylum-seeking women and girls receive the best possible support during the asylum procedure, by providing safe accommodation, access to quality interpretation and legal aid.