Around a thousand women suffer abuse in Cyprus every year with the latest figures showing close to 10,000 cases of abuse reported between 2005 and 2015, MPs heard on Monday.
The Association for the Prevention and Handling of Violence in the Family recorded 786 reports of domestic violence in 2016 while its support hotline received 8,341 calls over the year. Police statistics, meanwhile, include 57 cases of rape between the years of 2012-2014.
All these figures were presented to the House Human Rights Committee, the members of which also heard of the 721 reports of violence reported in 2011, criminal charges were initiated in only 253.
MPs also heard that spousal violence cost the state an estimated €186 million per year but that Cyprus has yet to ratify the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Cyprus signed the convention in 2015.
According to the European Commission, the Istanbul Convention: “is based on the understanding that violence against women is a form of gender-based violence that is committed against women because they are women.
It is the obligation of the state to fully address it in all its forms and to take measures to prevent violence against women, protect its victims and prosecute the perpetrators. Failure to do so would make it the responsibility of the state.
The convention leaves no doubt: there can be no real equality between women and men if women experience gender-based violence on a large-scale and state agencies and institutions turn a blind eye”.
House Human Rights Committee chairman Stella Kyriakidou on Monday said MPs believed the convention would contribute to “effective means and policies for handling all forms of violence against women, protest and support victims, and make examples of offenders through their punishment”.
Justice Ministry representatives told the Committee’s members that expert opinions had been sought and studies carried out to propose what legislative changes had to be made to best implement the Convention.
Representatives of women’s organisations and organisations formed to help female victims of violence called for support mechanisms to be put in place as soon as possible.
The representatives also told the committee a shelter in Nicosia housed 13 woman and 15 children during 2016, for an average stay of 82 nights while the figures stood at 11 woman and 17 children at the Paphos shelter that year. The average stay in Paphos was 51 nights.
The House committee will continue discussion next Monday. Victims of domestic violence can seek help and support by calling 1440.