The International Women’s Day, observed each year on 8 March, is a day that celebrates the being of our daughters, mothers and wives.
Besides that, this day also provides us the occasion to reflect on the challenges and opportunities we encounter in our way to reach an ultimate goal: gender balance and equal opportunities between men and women.
In this context, one challenge that is proving hard to eliminate is violence against women.
This year, ahead of the International Women’s Day, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) published, on 5 March, an EU-wide survey on violence against women.
This study, which is based on interviews with 42,000 women across the EU-28, asked women about their experiences of physical, sexual and psychological violence, stalking, sexual harassment, from their childhood to adulthood.
A very grim picture emerges from the results of the survey:
- One in three women (33 %) has experienced physical and/or sexual violence since she was 15 years old.
- Most violence is carried out by a current or former partner, with 22% of women in relationships reporting partner abuse.
- One in 20 women (5 %) has been raped since the age of 15.
- One third of victims (34 %) of physical violence by a previous partner experienced four or more different forms of physical violence.
- One in 10 women have been stalked by a previous partner.
- Violence against women is one of the least reported crimes. Only 14% of women reported their most serious incident of partner violence to the police, while a similar percentage (13%) reported their most serious incident of non-partner violence.
- Despite its scale and social impact violence against women and abuse remains relatively under-researched in key areas.
The report provides few suggestions to how to fix the problems. It calls for all Member States to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention, which demands more protection for women.
It encourages EU institutions and Members to increase action on different quarters to also include employers, health professionals and internet service providers – to name just a few. Furthermore it calls on Member States and the EU institutions to continue exploring different avenues for highlighting and combating violence against women.
Corresponding to these suggestions, on 25 February, we adopted in the plenary a legislative report on combating violence against women. This report is asking to establish a common EU regulation and definitions on combating violence against women that takes into consideration both prevention and combat measures.
The adoption of this report is a first step is a positive direction, but implementation and enforcement of these measures will eventually define our success.
I still believe the Istanbul Convention provides the best opportunity. It will enter into force following 10 ratifications, 8 of which must be Member States.
We are still a long way from achieving this goal as currently out of the 8 countries who ratified the Convention, only 3 are EU Members: Austria, Italy and Portugal.
Taking consideration of the reality portrayed by the FRA report, I’d say that we must do more to ensure better protection for women and girls against all forms of violence. Compromises and excuses for not taking a firmer action are simply not acceptable.
Greetings from the European Parliament,
Lidia Geringer de Oedenberg
Link to the FRA report on violence against women:
Link to the European Parliament resolution on combating violence against women: