"On the occasion of the announcement of the five-year European Strategy for Gender Equality, EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding recognized the need for a pan-European strategy to combat violence against women, including sexual violence that, according to the Council of Europe, affects more than one tenth of women living in Europe.
Based on the above, the Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies expresses its grave concern at the dramatic increase in incidents of sexual violence against women in Cyprus. According to reports of recent incidents of sexual violence against women including migrant women, domestic workers, and young girls, it is obvious that there is a general upward trend in reported incidents of sexual violence against women. It is worth noting that according to criminal statistics, during the period 1990-1996 the incidence of rape in Cyprus increased by 361% and in 2000-2003 there was a further increase of 195%. However, Cyprus still has one of the lowest reporting and conviction rates for violence against women in Europe.
The low reporting and conviction rate reflects among other things, the misconception that sexual violence experienced by women is a private matter. It also reflects the dominant patriarchal culture of victim blaming that places responsibility for violence on the victim rather than the perpetrator. At the same time, violence against women in Cyprus is recognized and interpreted only within the context of family relationships rather than within the broader social context of gender inequality and traditional power relations between women and men.
The Mediterranean Institute of Gender Studies (MIGS) calls on the State to proceed immediately with concrete measures for the protection and support of victims of sexual violence through the development of effective interdepartmental cooperation between the police, the social welfare services, the health services and other competent bodies. Furthermore, actions aimed at raising awareness and changing stereotypical attitudes and perceptions on sexual violence should be implemented without delay. MIGS also calls on the state to re-invent its response to rape and sexual assault against women, and improve its criminal investigation and prosecution procedures, in order to address the low conviction rate and send out a clear message to society that violence against women is not tolerated or accepted."