Strasbourg round-up: Violence against women

Written by Antonyia Parvanova, Teresa Jiménez-Becerril Barrio, Iratxe García Pérez, Raül Romeva I Rueda, Marina Yannakoudakis and Roberta Angelilli on 27 February 2014 in Special Report
Special Report

Violence against women continues to affect millions both in the EU and across the world. Antonyia Parvanova, Teresa Jiménez-Becerril Barrio, Iratxe García Pérez, Raül Romeva I Rueda, Marina Yannakoudakis and Roberta Angelilli explain why a new directive on the issue is so important.

Antonyia Parvanova is parliament's rapporteur on Combating violence against women

Violence against women is a severe violation of human rights and a form of gender-based discrimination. It is the root cause of gender inequality, as it is an obstacle to women's full participation in economic, social, political and cultural life.

According the studies (European added value assessment) around 20 to 25 per cent of women in Europe have experienced acts of physical violence at least once during their adult lives and over 10 per cent have suffered sexual violence involving the use of force. The economic cost of violence against women in the EU in 2011 is estimated to €228bn each year.

The report contains a resolution that sets the scene for a legislative annex. The annex proposes a regulation that foresees the exchange of best practices, information and training of officials involved. The report proposes to add 'gender based violence' to the list of so-called euro-crimes with a cross-border dimension.

"The EU should become the leading international actor in preventing gender based violence"

The report also requests the commission to submit, by the end of 2014, a proposal for an act establishing measures to promote and support the action of member states in the field of prevention of violence against women.

The report insists on the need of coherent system for collecting statistics on gender-based violence.

MEPs have requested the commission to propose an EU action plan on female genital mutilation, addressing several issues like prevention and protection.

I urge the member states not having done so yet, to ratify the Istanbul convention on violence against women, and urge the commission to launch the procedure for the accession of the EU to the same instrument.

The report also proposes the commission to adopt the first steps towards establishing a European observatory on violence against women, building on existing institutional structures.

My report requests the commission to establish an EU year to end violence against women each year for the next three years, with the aim of raising awareness among citizens.

The EU should become the leading international actor in preventing gender based violence. We should ensure that a life free from violence becomes a reality for all women in the EU.


Teresa Jiménez-Becerril Barrio is parliament's EPP Group shadow rapporteur on Combating violence against women

Ever since the principles of the EU were founded 60 years ago, European citizen has enjoyed a Europe with cross-border peace amongst its member states. Yet, peace amongst the two genders is in many cases far from a reality. It is a dark and gruesome daily fact for many of our EU citizens who are victims of gender based violence, with women most often being victim.

"Gender-based violence is a harsh reality for 25 per cent of all the women in Europe, 70 million people having suffered physical violence once during their lives, just because they are women"

Gender-based violence is a harsh reality for 25 per cent of all the women in Europe, 70 million people having suffered physical violence once during their lives, just because they are women. In addition, 2500 women are killed each year as a result of domestic violence. This must be stopped, once and for all.

However there is a lot of work to be done. Firstly, tackling violence against women can only be achieved by getting rid of a deep-rooted mentality which stereotypes women as inferior to men. We need a change of mind-set. Secondly, many EU member states have advanced laws to protect women against this intolerable violence. Other Member States could do better. Having an EU in which all member states have a similarly well advanced legislation to tackle violence against women is today more achievable than ever. Thirdly, the EU could also have a more efficient and coherent data collection mechanism. It would give us a broader perspective on the nature of the causes of violence against women and it could measure more significantly the impact certain policies have to deal with the problem. Lastly, impunity for committing violence against women should be something from the past. Justice needs to prevail for all those women who have been a victim of gender-based violence.

I know all these changes are possible. In 60 years the EU has achieved a lot. Let's continue this journey and make us proud of a Europe in which women can live in peace, security and dignity to live their lives as the way they should. Let's act now.


Iratxe García Pérez is parliament's S&D Group rapporteur on Combating violence against women

Gender-based violence is the most widespread violation of human rights in the world, affecting all strata of society, regardless of age, level of education, income, social status and country of origin or residence. It is closely related to the unequal distribution of power between women and men and the ideas and behaviour based on stereotypes rooted in society.

"The European parliament has insisted for years on the need for a comprehensive EU strategy to end violence against women, including a legal instrument of criminal law as a directive"

The European parliament has insisted for years on the need for a comprehensive EU strategy to end violence against women, including a legal instrument of criminal law as a directive. The Socialist group defends the urgent need for a directive to combat gender-based violence that goes beyond mere prevention, thereby pushing the council to recognise gender violence as one of the crimes recognised by the Lisbon treaty, as particularly serious with a cross-border dimension, which is similarly recognised in the trade in human beings and sexual exploitation of women and children.

The Socialist group also advocates the importance of a European observatory against gender violence, a Spanish EU presidency proposal which should be operated as soon as possible, taking advantage of the existing premises of the European Institute for gender equality. We also support the establishment of a European year to end violence against women to give more visibility to this fight and raise awareness among citizens and that everyone's efforts to eradicate this social evil is necessary.

Finally, the Socialist group emphasises the importance of all member states to ratify the "Istanbul convention" because it is the broader legal instrument to prevent and effectively combat gender violence in and outside Europe. It is also imperative that the EU accedes to the convention as soon as possible.


Raül Romeva I Rueda parliament's Greens/EFA Group rapporteur on Combating violence against women

After 10 years working in the European Parliament for women's rights and gender equality, it is devastating to still verify that, in 21st century Europe, violence against women (VAW) kills seven women every day. VAW is an extended global problem that affects around one fifth of the female population. Between 20 to 25 per cent of women in the old continent have experienced acts of physical violence at least once during their adult lives, over 10 per cent have suffered sexual violence involving the use of force and 12 to 15 per cent of women are victims of domestic violence.

"... The economic cost of violence against women in the EU [is] estimated at €228bn annually, including €45bn for services, €24bn in lost economic output and €159bn on pain and suffering"

British sociologist Sylvia Walby recently published a study for the EP in which the economic cost of violence against women in the EU was estimated at €228bn annually, including €45bn for services, €24bn in lost economic output and €159bn on pain and suffering. The costs of preventive measures are substantially less than the cost of violence. Women's rights are human rights and have to be protected at any cost; however, measuring the economic consequences of violence help us to highlight and make visible the consequences of the patriarchal society, the impunity of those crimes and the lack of action taken by public authorities.

Today, there is neither a legislative act establishing measures to promote and support the action of member states in the field of prevention of violence against women, nor a comprehensive strategy to combat gender based violence. On 26 February 2014 the EP voted on the Parvanova report, a legislative initiative report that demands the commission submits a regulation "establishing measures to promote and support the action of member states in the field of prevention of violence against women and girls" including detailed recommendations for an EU-wide strategy to end violence against women.


Marina Yannakoudakis is parliament's ECR Group shadow rapporteur on Combating violence against women

Feminicide, or gender related killing of women (as it is named by Rashida Manjoo, UN special rapporteur on VAW), is the most extreme form of gender based violence and is a global phenomenon. Thus, special action and steps must be taken to stop counting dead bodies of women in our society. Feminicide and VAW must be a top priority of the next EP electoral campaign, and the next commission must take real action to end violence and build an equal society between women and men.

"If we want attitudes towards women to change, and if we want to eradicate violence against women, approaches must be taken at a national level"

The ECR Group does not condone violence against women and girls in any form but we do not believe that an EU criminal law instrument in this area would be effective- all EU members states have national criminal law instruments at their disposal and we would like to see member states fully implementing and enforcing their own national laws.

If we want attitudes towards women to change, and if we want to eradicate violence against women, approaches must be taken at a national level. The EU cannot dictate to 28 member states and hope to produce one result. There are varying cultural and social attitudes towards women and only tailor-made policies will be able to adapt to those attitudes and prevent violence. While the EU can act as a forum for this debate, the main impetus must come from member states – after all it will be member state police authorities enforcing the law on the ground. It wouldn't make sense to implement an EU-wide policy with no realistic chance of improving the situation.

In order to be a part of the European Union, a state has to respect human rights and adhere to the principles of liberty and democracy. Any state which allows violence to occur without any legal consequences should be removed from the Union. We should be asking the question why member states are not implementing and enforcing suitable national laws to stop violence happening towards women.


Roberta Angelilli is parliaments civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee opinion rapporteur on Combating violence against women

With Tuesday's vote, the European parliament is calling for zero tolerance to violence against women and common rules for the 28 Member States.

It is a pioneering text that focuses on prevention and protection of victims and calls for violence against women to be classified as a particularly serious crime. In fact, the ultimate goal is to get a European directive establishing minimum rules concerning the definition of criminal offences and applicable sanctions: strict, effective and dissuasive rules in force throughout the European Union.

"We cannot ignore the spread of new forms of harassment through new technologies and new media, and mainly targeting young women (sexually explicit and offensive messages via emails, texts, or social media)"

The fight against this serious violation of human rights is a priority for us: we have already passed significant acts in this area, such the EU package of rights for victims, but what is needed is a strong, integrated and global plan of action to tackle this heinous crime and support the actions of the member states in the field of prevention. A plan that involves action in the sphere of training for professionals who deal with cases of gender violence, assistance to victims and their children, exchange of good practice and awareness campaigns.

The well-known and terrible data on the phenomenon are, unfortunately, underestimated since after being subjected to acts of violence, four women out of five do not seek help from assistance or support services. Moreover, we cannot ignore the spread of new forms of harassment through new technologies and new media, and mainly targeting young women (sexually explicit and offensive messages via emails, texts, or social media). This is why we need a true revolution in socio-cultural behaviour to eliminate prejudices and stereotypes, which affect the dignity of women, starting by taking strong action in schools.

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