A report compiled by the Council of Europe warns that the killings of women by family members to protect their so-called honor is far more extensive in Europe than previously believed. The report was published by the council's gender equality committee at a meeting in Istanbul.
The draft report calls for immediate action to deal with what it describes as the growing problem of honor killings. British member of parliament John Austin, prepared the report.
"Here in Turkey the figures for 2007 show that over 200 women were killed here in the name of family or community honor, and that is frankly unacceptable in a modern Europe," Austin said. "And it's just the tip of the iceberg: In the United Kingdom; in Germany; in Belgium; in France; in Norway, there is evidence of honor crimes and honor killings."
The report says one of the key steps in combating violence against women is legislation. Jose Mendes Bota is the chair of Portugal's parliamentary committee on violence against women.
"We need that a common standard should be established, a minimum standard, its not acceptable they are member states of the Council of Europe that still do not consider domestic violence or violence against women as a specific crime that should be condemned," Bota. "We have been doing that in Portugal , we made quite a few (eds: bit of) progress."
The Portuguese parliament is currently considering introducing sweeping reforms to crack down on violence against women. Turkey which is hosting the two-day Council of Europe meeting, and which hopes to join the European Union, many times has been criticized over its treatment of women.
That's Turkey's former Minister of Women's Affairs and current Minister of Education Nimet Cubukcu, addressing the conference. She explains the steps her government has taken to introduce harsher penalties for honor crimes. She says, in the past, when a murder was committed in the name of honor, this was considered a mitigating factor in sentencing. But today honor crimes receive a stiffer penalty than other cases of murder.
Such steps are seen by the Council of Europe members as an important step forward. But Ingrida Circene, vice chairperson of the Committee of Equal Opportunities for Women and Men, says legislation is only the first step.
"We have to work with authorities and with NGO's because they are more close with these people and then we have to make possible for victims, for these women to go to shelters," Circene said. "And so we have to organize from our side. We have to make budget resources."
The meeting outlined seven measures that should be taken to combat honor crimes and other forms of violence against women. They include education and providing shelters for women. Observers say that will be welcome news for women's rights campaigners in Turkey, who criticized the government for failing to increase the number of shelters for abused women. For a population of over 70 million there are only 52 shelters.