Earlier this week, we submitted a shadow report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). We prepared the shadow report in collaboration with the Center for Civil and Human Rights and s občianskym združením the Women’s Circlescivil society association.
In addition to the part we prepared on intimate partner violence against women, the shadow report also includes a section on childbirth, women’s treatment in or access to health care during and after childbirth during the COVID-19 pandemic, and violations of women’s rights, prepared by Women’s Circles. Center for Civil and Human Rights focused its part of the report on discrimination against Roma women in the provision of reproductive health and maternity care, as well as on barriers to access to justice for forcibly sterilized Roma women.
The shadow report is a response by NGOs to the report regularly submitted to the CEDAW Committee by the Government of the Slovak Republic as part of its commitment to implement the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. The Government submitted its seventh periodic report to the CEDAW Committee in 2021 on Slovakia’s fulfilment of its obligations under the Convention. In it, the Government responds mainly to the questions that the CEDAW Committee has submitted to it for answers. In May 2023, the representatives of Slovakia will be heard on this periodic report during the 85th session of the CEDAW Committee.
In our part of the report, we mainly focused on how the issue of violence against women in Slovakia is addressed within the framework of policies and strategies that are intended to gradually eliminate the causes and consequences of violence against women. We presented to the CEDAW Committee the development of the public and political debate on this issue in recent years and expressed our concern that the basic principles and prerequisites for effectively combating violence against women, such as the understanding of violence against women as a serious violation of women’s human rights and as violence that women experience because they are women and that affects them disproportionately, are gradually disappearing from public policies on this issue. We have also touched on how this development is impacting on tackling the issue of violence against women.
In the next sections, we looked at the impact of the absence of a mechanism for systemic and sustainable funding for specialist support services for women experiencing violence – helplines, counselling centres and women’s shelters. We highlighted that project-based funding means not only constant uncertainty about whether and what resources specialist support services will have to continue to provide help and support, but also disproportionate administrative burden, exhaustion and loss of autonomy.
In the area of child protection for children of women who witness violence against their mothers, we have focused on current practice in the area of ‘custody proceedings’, where the courts make decisions about the custody of children and about the regulation of parents’ rights and responsibilities towards them. We informed the Committee about to what extent courts and child welfare authorities take into account or disregard suspicions that psychological or physical violence against the children’s mothers is occurring or has occurred, and what the effects of the failure to investigate and take into account the history of violence in these proceedings has on the safety of women and their children.
Last but not least, we also touched on some aspects of protecting women from violence such as educating the police and other law enforcement agencies about violence against women, their practices and whether they can be well monitored and evaluated so that their interventions can be improved in the future.
For each area, in addition to formulating recommendations to the CEDAW Committee, we have also proposed specific actions for the State to take in order to make protection, assistance and support for women experiencing intimate partner violence and their children more accessible, of better quality and more effective.