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Each time we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, we acknowledge a failure of our societies. Women and girls are targeted – at home, in their communities or at their working place – all over the world. Our European Union makes no exception: on the contrary, we are witnessing a worrying trend that defies achievements we used to take for granted. Women endure enormous pain, and very often they have to carry this weight alone. But violence against women is violence against the entire society: the entire society has to react, starting with men.
As policy-makers, we bear the greatest responsibility to protect women and raise awareness: the European Union has put forward targeted projects all around the world, including through the new EU Gender Action Plan 2016-2020, and within our borders. For instance, we are supporting young women who say “no” to forced marriage, and we are working with families and local leaders who renounce female genital mutilation. We are helping to spread the message that violence against women is a sign of weakness for men, not of strength.
Because this is first and foremost a cultural fight that involves all, with the media playing a very sensitive role. There can be no room for complacency. Each and every word should be chosen carefully when gender-based violence is concerned, and there should be no other word to describe the perpetrators than “criminals.” Criminals who deprive girls and women of their right to study, to work, to choose their partner or to leave him, criminals who deprive them from their freedom.