Thirty years ago, I started working on women’s rights and gender equality issues. Back then, we were talking about domestic violence and violence against women. This was physical violence against people who were attacked and vulnerable in the place that was supposed to be safest: their homes.
If you had asked me thirty years ago what I thought the situation would be in 2020, I would have told you that I think numbers would have greatly reduced.
The sad reality is that in Europe in 2020, the number of victims of domestic violence has in fact risen exponentially, with physical violence, psychological violence, sexual violence, coercive control and economic violence all playing a role.
Particularly due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns, calls to helplines for domestic violence victims have increased significantly across the continent.
"Domestic violence knows no borders. When it comes to tackling this problem, we must go back to emphasising and understanding the basics: domestic violence and violence against women are crimes and we in Europe must have zero tolerance for them"
As policymakers, it is up to us to make sure that the requisite tools and resources are available, and that people know how to access these resources and to recognise the signs of domestic violence.
In terms of a legal framework, the Istanbul Convention offers the most comprehensive approach to tackling this issue.
And we absolutely must be clear as regards the Istanbul Convention: its sole purpose is to tackle this horrendous crime, nothing else. We must be vigilant in fighting back at efforts to portray the Convention as anything else.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned a lot about what resources work well in these crises, and which need more support.
We must harness this information, share it among Member States through best practice networks and work together to make sure that we have robust tools to adequately combat violence within the home.
Comprehensive and publicly available data that is disaggregated by gender is absolutely essential to point us in the right direction.
One thing is clear: we cannot do this without men. We will need male champions to join us in this fight, and to join us in saying that violence against women is never acceptable.
As we mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, we must renew our call to tackle this scourge that exists within our societies.
Violence Against Women is a crime and it must be eradicated.