Democratic Empowerment and Transnational Threats

Slovakia Turned Orange: Violence Against Women Has Intensified Since the Outbreak of Covid-19

Zuzana Caputova 2020

The situation in Slovakia is far from satisfying, said President Čaputová. Not only her but several institutions and other personalities in Slovakia joined the global Orange the World Campaign running between November 25th and December 10th 2020. The campaign has been also supported by 17 foreign mission in Slovakia initiated by the Irish ambassadress Riain and published their orange photos with appeals to stop violence against women and girls.

16 Days of Global Activism

The 16 days between 25 November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, and 10 December, Human Rights Day, are known as the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign. Nowadays, violence against women and girls is one of the most persistent human rights violations. The international campaign was launched firstly in 1991 by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership. The UN system´s activities will take place under a theme “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, Collect.” The orange colour is supposed to symbolize a brighter future, free of violence.

As the world remains home due to Covid-19 measures, women rights activists have begun to report an alarming increase in all types of violence against women and girls, particularly in term of domestic violence. Calls to helplines have increased as rate of reported intimate partner violence. In some countries, resources were delegate from support system to Covid-19 relief, moreover, UN Women mentions low awareness about available support services.

One of Five Women Has Experienced Violence

One of five women has experienced violence from their current or former intimate partner in Slovakia, 7 % has been physically attacked and 3 % even sexually. In most cases, attacks by partners occur regularly. At the same time, over 100.000 Slovak women have experienced sexual violence. Data also showed that up to 88 % of women know their abuser, in 10 % it is a family member, in 12 % someone from women´s workplace, such as colleagues or supervisors. The survey was conducted by the Coordinating-Methodical Centre for Gender-Based and Domestic Violence (KMC) running under the Institute for Labour and Family Research (IVPR).

Organizations working on the issue call the current situation alarming and not only because of escalating intensity but so its brutality. There are reasons why – victims are locked up with abusers, victims are under control and it makes calling help impossible, and victims have nowhere to run or hide as the pandemic locked safe shelters from them.

How does Covid-19 pandemic affect domestic violence?

  • Stress from an unknown situation,
  • economic insecurity,
  • greater financial dependency on aggressor as victims have limited financial opportunities,
  • social isolation and limited contact with other family members,
  • family members spend most of their time in close contact,
  • increase of task (home education of children).

Even though one-fifth of women have such an experience, only one of seven respondents said to know somebody in their family or among friends who goes through it. Low awareness prevents women from getting help. Only 15% of them turned to the police and 13% sought psychological help. 

Slovak President Has Supported the Campaign 

President Zuzana Čaputová has joined the campaign as well and said that the situation is far from satisfactory and expressed her gratitude to everyone who helps women to leave their abusers. She encouraged them to speak up and seek help. She expressed a wish Slovakia being a safe country for each woman and girl and symbolically, illuminated the presidential palace in orange colour.

Other personalities have expressed support too, such as Ivan Korčo, Minister of Foreign Affairs, who stressed that violence against women has no place in Slovak society. Moreover, he perceives the extent to which women are protected in society as its level of maturity. Ombudswoman Patakyová claimed that gender-based violence is a serious and persisting issue of society. On the one hand, she praised the organizations helping victims, but on the other hand, criticized the state for not adopting preventive mechanisms, such as the Istanbul Convention[1], which addresses the core of the issue and not just its symptoms. Recognition of this problem depends on acknowledging it by society.

The Istanbul Convention is a human right treaty, aiming at prevention of violence, victim protection and ending up with impunity of perpetrators. It was opened for signatures in May 2011 and by 2019, it has been signed by 45 countries, however, in Slovakia text of the Convention provoked controversy. Although the Convention is not legally binding, its critics across Europe picture it as a way how to force states to adopt a certain set of measures, including the introduction of same-sex marriage or a certain definition of gender[2]. Back in 2019, a day before the presidential election, nationalist politicians forced a resolution not to ratify the Convention through the Parliament, hoping to mobilize voters for a conservative candidate Šefčovič, instead of a progressive candidate Čaputová who had been supporting women´s rights to abortion or the LGBT community. Even though she won, the Parliament rejected joining the Istanbul Convention again last February and so there is no ratification in sight.

There are several other countries along with Slovakia – Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, and the United Kingdom, which have not ratified the Convention yet.

[1] The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention

[2] The Convention defines gender as “social roles, behaviour, activities and characteristics that a particular society considers appropriate for women and men”.

By Soňa Hoigerová

Soňa holds a Master's degree in International Relations and European Studies from the University of Florence. Besides European policies, she is interested in the issues concerning Gender and Global South. She has been currently working as a European Solidarity Corps officer for the National Agency.

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