This year’s International Women’s Day focused on the theme of violence against women and girls. On this occasion, UN Women - United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women - invited the representatives of civil society - European Women’s Lobby - and the European Commission DG Justice, to hold a discussion on the issue of violence against women in the European context.
The recent UN Campaign "Say NO - UNiTE against violence against women" set the background for the discussion around the issues of great importance not only from a global but also European perspective, such as domestic violence.
Un Women representative - Maria Jose Alcala - presented a global perspective of what she called "global epidemic" of violence against women. She said the problem is rooted in "ever-lasting devaluation of women in our contemporary societies, in all settings - including settings where women should be the safests - their homes". The issue is believed to extend well beyond social, economic or geographical boundaries, and has been found to reach up to 70% of all women all over the world to experience any type of violence at least once in their lifetime.
Only in Europe the scale of the problem is appaling. According to the briefing prepared for this ocassion by the European Women’s Lobby:
45% of women in Europe have suffered from men’s violence;
20% of women has been a victim of domestic violence;
in Europe, 7 women die every day from male domestic violence;
the cost of domestic violence in Europe alone is estimated at 16 billion Euros a year (1 million Euros every half hour), while the annual EU Member States’ budgets for prevention programmes of male violence are 1000 times less;
Estonia and Romania still have high maternal mortality ratios (respectively 25 and 24 per 100 000 births);
every year, up to 180 000 women and girls living in the EU are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM), and 500 000 women and girls in Europe already live with FGM;
over 50% of women with disabilities have experienced physical abuse;
disabled women (physically and mentally), Roma women and transgender persons continue to face forced sterilisation;
Belinda Pyke from the European Commission DG Justice (Equality unit) said that gender-based violence is nowadays seen as public matter and that it happens regardless socio-economic background of both victims and offenders. She mentioned the Eurobarometer 2010 which showed that although the knowledge on the issue is high it still occurs at all levels of society. The most important issue for DG Justice would be equalizing economic situation of women, promoting financial independence for women and men, protection of victims, as well as education of men and boys on the issue.
Pierrette Pape from the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) gave the facts and figures aforementioned, and stated that also contemporary advertisation of violence against women (fashion, commercials or movies) seriously harms women’s security.
The debate ended with a question on the next steps in developing a comprehensive strategy to end violence against women and girls in the EU and globally. The major points for future focus were identified as:
prevention and wide communication on effectiveness of preventive programmes;
problem de-focused from happening only to women but rather related to a vast variety of inter-related issues such as security, justice, education and public health;
work with children and adolescents to develop proper attitudes and build up resilence;
change existing power relations, unequal distribution of wealth and decision-making;
the EC is to adopt a package of legislative instruments related to victims of violence in general (including women) in May 2011;
indicators for effective actions are yet to be developed;
policy makers from different sectors are to work together;
equal protection before law of men and women
"Promoting gender equality is good for all of us, for all our societies, including men", concluded Ms Pape.
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