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Last Updated: Monday, 27 November 2006, 18:14 GMT
Europe 'must end domestic abuse'
Domestic violence incident
Millions of European women are abused in the home each year
Spain's prime minister has launched a campaign against domestic violence in Europe, calling it one of the worst forms of human rights violations.

Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was speaking to hundreds of delegates from the Council of Europe's member states.

According to the Council, almost a quarter of women in Europe have suffered physical or sexual attack.

Mr Zapatero said there could be no room for such abuse and that women must not feel abandoned by society.

"Fear, pain and humiliation are incompatible with a project for a decent society," Mr Zapatero said.

Breaking the silence

In Spain, some two million women say they have been the victims of psychological or physical abuse.

Mr Zapatero has described domestic violence as Spain's "greatest national disgrace".

The Council of Europe has called for increased awareness of the problem of domestic violence.

It says "risk factors", including a patriarchal culture, gender stereotypes and low income, must be addressed.

The Council of Europe says that stopping the complicit silence surrounding domestic abuse is one of the campaign's main goals.

"Women suffering from domestic violence are not only victims of abuse, they are also victims of silence, victims of indifference and victims of neglect," said Terry Davis, the Council's Secretary General.

The conference opened with a minute's silence for Spain's most recent victim of domestic violence, a 43-year-old woman from Seville, who was stabbed to death over the weekend by her ex-husband.

Spain has made efforts to tackle domestic violence, passing a law in 2004 which introduced tougher penalties for men found guilty of such offences.

Special courts have also been set up and the number of police officers trained to work with abused women has been increased by 90%.


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