Creating equality between the sexes – and thus stopping violence against women – is what the so-called Istanbul Convention aims to achieve. How can municipalities achieve this? A conference from the cities of Frankenthal, Ludwigshafen, Speyer and the Rhine-Palatinate district wants to provide answers.
On the occasion of the event, SWR Aktuell spoke with Birgit Löwer, responsible for equal opportunities in the city of Frankenthal, about what cities and districts can and should do to protect women and how the Istanbul Convention can contribute to this.
Current SWR: What is the current situation regarding violence against women in Frankenthal and what developments are you observing? Has the situation improved or worsened in recent years?
Birgit Löwer, Equal Opportunities Officer of the City of Frankenthal: The situation has remained more or less the same over the past three years. In the area of the Frankenthal Police Station and the Maxdorf Police Station, a total of 304 cases of domestic violence were recorded in 2019, 327 in 2020 and 301 cases in 2021. That said, cases have remained stable at one level. high.
To put these numbers in more concrete terms: last year’s 301 reports conceal, for example, 123 evictions from which the violent – and mainly men who use violence – had to leave the apartment. At the same time, a corresponding number of contact bans were issued. 125 women victims of violence were referred to a counseling center in Ludwigshafen, the so-called intervention center. This is a contact point for further advice, as long as women want it too.
Current SWR: What specifically can municipalities like Frankenthal do to protect women from domestic violence?
Lion: In my opinion, the most important thing for the prevention of domestic violence is to create public awareness of the problem. And municipalities have many options for doing this. For example, there are various campaigns and days on which we act, such as November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This is a public campaign to take the topic of domestic violence out of the taboo zone and at the same time to convey the following: where can I turn to Frankenthal if I am affected by domestic violence or violence? This is necessary every year. Because we need to encourage those affected and make them credible that they don’t have to deal with it alone, but they can report to the police and file a complaint, or contact the equal opportunities officer and get advice. Our women’s shelter has not only women’s shelters, but also a counseling center. I think it is very important to repeat all of this in public on a regular basis. This is an important element among many in the field of prevention.
Frankenthal, Speyer, Ludwigshafen and Rhein-Pfalz-Kreis also each have a round table or working group against domestic violence. Very different actors are networked there. For example, the intervention center, women’s support structures, women’s shelters, police and child protection services. An important and good network is already taking place here.
Current SWR: The aforementioned cities and the Rhine-Palatinate district are jointly organizing this year’s specialist conference on the Istanbul Convention. How important is the Istanbul Convention from a municipal point of view? And how can it help protect against violence?
Lion: The Istanbul Convention recognizes that achieving legal and effective equality between women and men is an essential element in preventing violence against women. This means that the Istanbul Convention offers us the opportunity to recognize the lack of equality as the main cause of violence. And he says that inequalities of opportunities for women and men lead to unjust and even dangerous addictions for women because they encourage domestic violence.
As municipalities, along with federal and state governments, have committed to implementing the Istanbul Convention, we are also obliged to conduct a municipal-level public discourse on existing power structures and outdated role models. And we need to remove the fertile ground from the issue of gender-based violence.
Current SWR: What will the conference be about and what should come out of it?
Lion: Our goal this time will be to broaden the view on the topic of “violence against women”. So this time we have invited a lot of people to this event. The aim is to appeal to a completely new target group. That is why we have invited representatives of local politics, representatives of the welfare of children and young people and school social workers, among others, to discuss the Istanbul Convention in this group.
The Istanbul Convention is a very complex set of rules. It looks at many different areas of gender-based violence and we inevitably have to think far beyond and possibly position ourselves much broader than before. For example, many possible actors have not yet been involved in the round tables. In Frankenthal, for example, the area of the municipal administration responsible for migration and integration. However, the purpose of the Istanbul Convention is to work between agencies and institutions.
Current SWR: How can it be implemented?
Lion: The Istanbul Convention cannot be implemented overnight. It is more of a long-term process where many questions are still unanswered. After all, human and financial resources, for example, must be made available for this. This will be highlighted in the first of our key talks at the conference.
The second impulse lesson then shows a good example from practice, namely from the city of Oldenburg. Oldenburg has already decided to implement the Istanbul Convention in 2020 and has developed a municipal action plan against violence against women and domestic violence. With this concept, Oldenburg plays a pioneering role in Germany. With this report of the practice we want to give an impetus to see: how did the other municipalities do? You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel, there are already a lot of good concepts, you just have to get to know them. And with that input, it will go back to your communities, because that’s where the work will continue.
Current SWR: In your opinion, what is the greatest need for action in municipal work against violence against women?
Lion: A big problem, for example, is that women find it very difficult to find an apartment of their own when they leave the women’s shelter with their children. Because providing apartments for women is not something we as a city administration can afford. And the real estate market is unfortunately not there at the moment to offer women an affordable apartment after their stay in the women’s shelter. All of this sometimes means that women have to stay much longer in the shelter. In any case, we still have the potential to become active, in whatever form it is.
Current SWR: What specific questions are municipalities asking themselves?
Lion: We will be examining exactly these questions at our conference on Tuesday: where are our needs in our respective municipalities? Where do we still have gaps in our supply structures? How can we then implement the necessary measures and perhaps even launch them in the form of an action plan?
Due to the expansion of the target group tomorrow, completely new aspects could come into play for the subsequent inventory. Speaking of apartments, especially in Frankenthal: who are the apartment providers in our city? For example, there is the housing association. But they must also sit at the table if we as a municipality are to find a lasting solution to the problem of housing shortages for women after abusive relationships.