Maja Mamula-ženska soba.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Denis CERIĆ /dc

 About one in three women have suffered physical or sexual violence on the national, European and global levels, and one in two women is faced with some form of sexual abuse, an international conference on sexual violence heard on Friday.

The conference was organised by the Women's Room - Centre for Sexual Rights in cooperation with the parliamentary Gender Equality Committee.

According to a European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights survey, 13 million women experienced some form of violence in 2013, 3.7 million experienced sexual violence, and one in 20 has been raped before 15, said Croatian Deputy Social Policy Minister Maja Sporis.

Violence against women is a gross violation of human rights and it is the task of all in society to raise awareness of its intolerability, to help the victims and punish the perpetrators.

A 2005 survey shows that 17 percent of women in Croatia (300,000) experienced attempted rate and that 95% of them did not report it because they did not believe that the perpetrators would be punished, said Women's Room coordinator Maja Mamula.

Last year 800 sex crimes were reported in Croatia, of which 500 against children and 300 against women, she said, adding that the figure was far higher because sexual violence remained unreported. She said the new Penal Code contributed to that because of lenient punishment for the perpetrators and a confusing provision on rape and non-consensual sex.

Liz Kelly, director of the Child & Woman Abuse Studies Unit at London Metropolitan University, said abuse was unreported in Great Britain too. She said victims should be believed and not stigmatised and that everything must be done so the perpetrators were punished.

Sanja Koenig of the Gender Equality Committee said that global research showed that violence against women was highest in the army and the family, and that injustice from their partners was a bigger threat to women than from anyone else.

Croatian Gender Equality Ombudswoman Visnja Ljubicic said her office received women's complaints about violent partners on a daily basis, and that the police and the courts must not treat victims and perpetrators equally.

Croatia signed the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence two years ago but has not ratified it, Ljubicic said, adding that one must not forget the women raped in the 1991-95 war. She said the media still reported sensationally on sexual abuse and rape, revealing victims' names.

The conference also heard that because of insufficiently good legislation and victim stigmatisation, to every reported act of violence there were 10-15 unreported cases.

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