By Viviane Reding - 23rd November 2011
Violence against women is the most brutal manifestation of gender inequality and is a violation of human rights that Europe must not and cannot ignore
By working together, Europe can play a leading role in eradicating violence against women, writes Viviane Reding.
Across Europe, around one in five women have suffered physical violence at least once in their lives and one in 10 have suffered forced sexual violence. Violence against women is the most brutal manifestation of gender inequality and is a violation of human rights that Europe must not and cannot ignore.
That is why the European commission, working hand in hand with the parliament and the council, is committed to combating gender-based violence and supporting victims and groups at risk.
There are different forms of violence against women and so we are taking action on several fronts, notably in criminal justice (victims’ rights), gender equality policy, trafficking in human beings and sexual exploitation, asylum and immigration, health and research.
In May this year, the commission presented a package of proposals to ensure that victims of crime have the same minimum rights in all EU member states, irrespective of their nationality or country of residence.
The package provides a range of measures that should be put in place to ensure that victims receive proper treatment from the moment they report a crime to the final outcome of criminal proceedings.
Several measures are particularly aimed at helping women suffering from different forms of violent and sexual crime. For example, the commission has proposed to put in place a mechanism to determine whether a victim is in a situation of specific vulnerability and needs special protection.
Women who are victims of domestic and sexual violence tend to be more vulnerable because of the nature of the crime they have suffered or their relationship/dependence on the offender. In those cases there will be special measures to protect them during criminal proceedings to ease their difficulties through interviews, hearings and trial.
Should, for example, a woman who has been raped, have to recall in detail what was done to her to a male interviewer, or would a female interview not be more appropriate? We have to be sensitive to what female victims may have experienced.
Another measure that will benefit many women who are victims of violence in their homes is the mutual recognition of protection measures – European protection orders in the area of criminal and civil.
This will ensure that a barring or restraining order issued against a violent partner, or other types of protective measures issued in one member state can be automatically recognised in another state if the victim moves or travels. Protection should not be lost just because the victim decides to travel in the EU.
In parallel with our actions within the criminal justice area, the commission also works to empower women, raise awareness, promote exchanges of good practices and collect and analyse data on violence against women.
The commission will draw on the work of the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) to collect data on violence against women. The commission is also exploring with Eurostat how to collect harmonised data on violence against women.
Reliable data would allow us to assess the real extent of the problem and to find appropriate solutions. The Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) is currently working on an EU-wide survey on violence against women that will be presented in 2013.
The survey’s main objective is to provide reliable and comparable data on women’s experiences of various types of physical, sexual and psychological violence by current and former partners and non-partners to enable the commission to take the appropriate follow-up.
In addition, the EU’s Daphne III programme provides financial support to non-governmental organisations and local authorities for transnational projects to combat violence against women, children and young people.
Since its establishment in 1997, Daphne has funded hundreds of projects, half of which work to support women who are victims of violence or which find ways to prevent violence from occurring. An important focus of these actions has always been preventing violence, supporting victims (such as women’s shelters run by NGOs), training professionals and raising awareness of the issues.
Under the EU’s new financial framework for 2013-2020, the commission will continue to support projects to tackle domestic violence as part of the proposed rights and citizenship programme.
This comprehensive new programme takes over from the previous Daphne and Progress programmes and streamlines them, making it easier for organisations to apply for funding of their projects.
A new Council of Europe convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, adopted in May 2011, also creates new ways to strengthen efforts and ensure comprehensive action - it is the most far-reaching international treaty to tackle this serious violation of human rights and a major step forward in making Europe and beyond a safer place for women.
I am convinced that the EU must play a leading role in eradicating all forms of violence that women may suffer. By working together – the parliament, commission, NGOs and citizens – we can make a real difference and achieve tangible results.
Let us together say “NO” to violence against women. Let us together make sure this is more than a slogan.