Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2017, 16:28 GMT

Greece: Update to GRC20239.E of 17 March 1995 on whether protection is available to victims of spousal abuse, particularly when the spouses are living apart

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 1 March 1999
Citation / Document Symbol GRC31274.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Greece: Update to GRC20239.E of 17 March 1995 on whether protection is available to victims of spousal abuse, particularly when the spouses are living apart, 1 March 1999, GRC31274.E, available at: [accessed 16 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.


In January 1999 the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) looked at the latest report on Greece's compliance with the Convention (UN 28 Jan. 1999a). The latest report is for the period 1986 to 1994 and shows improvement in "almost all indices" (ibid.). However, in terms of violence against women the report noted that:

Although the Greek courts apply the principle of equal treatment of men and women in all cases referred to them, there are cases that are either not covered by the existing legislation or are insufficiently covered. As a result, the application of equal treatment becomes impossible. Such cases mainly concern violence in the family and sexual abuse in the workplace.

With regard to violence against women, sentences imposed by the courts are lower than those provided for by law and the number of convictions is very small, according to the report. Among other reasons that discourage women from referring to the courts are: the long penal procedure; difficulty in finding witnesses; the responsibility of proving the claims; and the suspicion with which they are dealt with in investigations. Also, the attitude of the police towards abused women ranges from indifferent to negative. They often do not inform women of their rights and discourage them from pressing charges. In small towns and villages, the police take less action against the man because of personal acquaintance with the perpetrator. Compounding the problem further is the lack of special services available to the victims.

In introducing the Greek reports to the Committee, the President of the Hellenic Research Centre on Women's Issues said that Greece's women's movement was "strong" and "had stirred profound changes in Greece," but that "men still dominated and gender-based discrimination persisted at all levels of Greek society." According to the press release, the President said:

that violence against women was covered by Greek legislation, as a social phenomenon, through the general provisions of civil and criminal law and other specific legislations. In Greece, there had not been any scientific systematic research into any form of violence against women in any sector. The lack or inadequacy of available data made it hard to assess the extent, nature, severity and effects of that phenomenon. Irrespective of the insufficient data, it was generally accepted that the scope, severity and effects of the various forms of violence against women were much wider and, sometimes, more significant than indicated by available records and relevant data (ibid.).

Concern was also expressed by experts on the panel that "marital rape was simply perceived as indecent assault" and that "psychological violence did not constitute an offence" (UN 28 Jan. 1999b). However, the President of the Hellenic Research Centre on Women's Issues said that a committee had been formed within the General Secretariat for Equality of the Two Sexes which would consider developing legislation against marital rape and that she was "confident" the legislation would be in place by 2000, when Greece next presents its report to the Committee (ibid.).

In its response to the report, the Greek government drew attention to a number of planned measures in regard to violence against women (UN 28 Jan. 1999a). These include giving "top priority" to the issue of violence against women in both the "1998-2000 Action Plan" and "the General Secretariat for Equality of the Two Sexes, the State agency responsible for gender-related issues"; and conducting research on the issue in the Research Centre for Equality as "the scarcity of records had created difficulties in assessing the prevalence of that phenomenon." The government also stated that it had initiated awareness campaigns and visited town councils "to sensitize the public to gender-based violence." A panel member said "she was impressed that Greece had one of the more advanced legislative frameworks in Europe" and that it was "moving in the right direction by focusing on such issues as violence against women" (UN 28 Jan. 1999b).

Additionally, Country Reports 1998 states that:

The incidence of violence against women that is reported to the authorities is low, but Athens' Equality Secretariat, which operates the only shelter for battered women, believes the actual incidence is "high." According to the Ministry of Public Order, 217 cases of rape were reported in 1997 compared with 183 cases in 1996. The General Secretariat for Equality of the Sexes (GSES), an independent government agency, asserts that police tend to discourage women from pursuing domestic violence charges and instead undertake reconciliation efforts, although they are neither qualified for nor charged with this task. The GSES also claims that the courts are lenient when dealing with domestic violence cases. Facilities for battered women and their children exist but are often inadequately staffed to handle cases properly (1999).

Country Reports 1997 commented on facilities:

a government shelter and a residential facility for battered women and their children provide relevant services in Athens, including legal and psychological advice. Battered women can also go to state hospitals and regional health centers, although these facilities are often not adequately staffed to handle such cases properly (1998, 1110).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1998. 1999. United States Department of State. Washington, DC. [Internet] [Accessed 2 Mar. 1999]

Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1997. 1998. United States Department of State. Washington, DC.

United Nations. 28 January 1999a. "Press Release WOM/1088."  [Internet] [Accessed 3 Mar. 1999]

United Nations. 28 January 1999b. "Press Release WOM/1089/Rev.1*."  [Internet] [Accessed 3 Mar. 1999]

Additional Sources Consulted

Win News [Lexington, Mass.]. 1996 - 1998.

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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