Violence against women and girls is a widespread and devastating human rights violation that takes place across the globe. The World Health Organization estimates that one third of women and girls worldwide experience violence at some point in their lives. The numbers may only be the tip of the iceberg, as this type of violence remains largely unreported due to the silence, stigma and shame surrounding it. As a result, many perpetrators remain unpunished.
"It is our responsibility as the EU and international community, to keep our commitment to preventing, openly rejecting and condemning all acts of violence against women and girls.
It is our duty also to support and protect the victims by creating a safe environment for them to report the crimes committed against them.
The EU is committed to keep working tirelessly with our partners to strengthen legal frameworks and institutions, supporting development and education, improving services for survivors, addressing the root causes of violence, promoting women empowerment," says the statement by the European Commission and High Representative Federica Mogherini issued ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The European Union has put substantial measures in place to end such violence inside the EU. This includes, inter alia, the EU's Victims' Rights Directive ensuring more and better rights for victims of crimes and specialised support for victims of sexual or gender–based violence, and the process of concluding the EU accession to the Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
The EU is also tackling violence against women outside of the EU. For example, in partnership with the United Nations, the EU has started in 2017 the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls.
In Russia, the European Union is supporting the implementation of the Russian Federation's National Strategy for women, through the financing of the Joint Project with the Council of Europe. The project focuses on developing knowledge and skills in two areas identified jointly with the Russian authorities: prevention of social disadvantage of women and violence against women, and women participation in public and political life.
Some facts and figures
Violence against women takes many different forms, ranging from intimate partner violence, sexual harassment and online abuse to honour-related violence, female genital mutilation and can ultimately lead to femicide. Gender-based violence takes place at home, at work, at school, in the street or online. It affects the victims’ health and well-being, and it restricts their possibility to thrive in society, in education and employment.
There are many myths concerning violence against women. Let’s get our facts straight:
MYTH 1: Domestic violence is a private issue and we should not get involved
Domestic violence is a crime. It is against the law and thus it is not a private matter. If you commit a crime in your own home, it is still a crime for which you can be prosecuted. Silence around domestic violence enables it to continue. Everyone, women included, has the right to be safe and free from fear everywhere, including in the domestic sphere.
MYTH 2: Addressing gender-based violence means imposing ideas and values onto other cultures
Violence is not a legitimate part of any culture. Gender-based violence exists in every country, culture or community and governments around the world have outlawed most acts of gender-based violence. Gender-based violence cannot be allowed to be perpetuated. It is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today. Women are being harassed, raped, mutilated, beaten and even murdered. This must end.
MYTH 3: There would be fewer rapes if women refrained from risky behaviours (for example, revealing clothing, being drunk...)
The victim’s behaviour can never be taken as a sign of consent to sexual activity. This victim blaming discourse perpetuates the idea that rape can be justified: 27% of EU citizens say non-consensual sex could be justifiable in certain situations. This shifts the blame to the victim/survivor, and minimises the perpetrator’s responsibility.