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Europe launches treaty to protect women from violence

image captionThe new convention covers a wide range of offences against women

The European human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, has launched a legally binding international treaty to combat violence against women.

It is the first such treaty in the world, the council says.

Signatories will have to provide helplines, shelters, medical care and legal aid for women who have suffered rape or other forms of violence.

France, Germany, Greece, Spain and Turkey are among the 13 countries that signed it in Istanbul on Wednesday.

The others are: Austria, Finland, Iceland, Luxembourg, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia and Sweden.

The council calls it a "comprehensive legal framework to protect women against all forms of violence". It is open for other countries to sign too.

Statistics from the member states suggest that at least 15% of women have experienced domestic violence.

Signatories will undertake to strengthen the prosecution of those responsible for such violence.

Crimes targeted by the convention include rape, domestic violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, sexual harassment, forced abortion and forced sterilisation.

Excuses on grounds of culture, custom, religion or so-called "honour" will be rejected, the council says.

The convention also creates an independent expert group tasked with ensuring that the treaty countries stick to their commitments.

The Istanbul meeting was attended by representatives of all 47 members of the Council of Europe.

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