Sixteen Action Days Opposing Violence Against Women

Domestic Violence

November 25 was the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. This year, five Czech women's organizations belonging to the Coordination Circle for the Prevention of Violence against Women organised a joint project. The project's called "Sixteen Action Days Against Violence Against Women", and Pavla Horakova visited the Gender Studies Centre in Prague to find out more about it.

As the title suggests, the project lasts for 16 days, from November 25 to December 10. A series of conferences, public lectures and discussions are being held to increase awareness of domestic violence, a topic still largely neglected in the Czech Republic. The overwhelming majority of victims of domestic violence are women - as many as 97 percent according to statistics. Petra Hejnova is the education director at the Gender Studies Centre in Prague, one of the organizations participating in the "Sixteen Action Days" project.

"It is a campaign against violence against women, which is organized by a network of women's organizations working in the Czech Republic. The network is called Coordination Circle of prevention of violence against women. This network puts together 5 organizations, especially women's organizations that deal with different women's issues or problems. It's Gender Studies Centre which is an information and advocacy centre, there is La Strada which deals with victims of trafficking in women, Rosa which is trying to help victims of domestic violence, proFem which is a consulting centre, which is currently dealing also with victims of domestic violence, and finally it's Electra which is trying to help victims of sexual abuse."

The issue of domestic violence or violence against women is relatively new in Czech society. This doesn't mean that such things never existed before - rather their existence went unacknowledged by society and the legal system. What is the situation now in the Czech Republic, twelve years after the fall of communism?

"I'm almost positive that there is not enough awareness in the Czech Republic. I would say that the situation is getting better, for example domestic violence is no longer a taboo, people actually speak about it, you can hear about it in the media. But I believe that especially outside the big urban areas it's still a problem, people do not speak up when they have this kind of problem."

The Sixteen Action days project is slowly coming to an end. Organisers hope that it will help to break some common prejudices about domestic violence and trigger substantial changes in the law. On Thursday and Friday experts will meet at a conference on the legal, health and social implications of prostitution and the "Sixteen Action Days" project will close with a conference devoted to the topic of rape, scheduled for next Monday, International Human Rights' Day.