Violence against women: an EU-wide survey

One in three women in the EU has experienced physical and/or sexual violence after the age of 15, a report published Wednesday showed.

The figure for sexual harrasment is highest for women with higher qualifications, with three quarters of women in qualified professions or top management jobs having been sexually harassed in their lifetime. Many forms of violence against women are under-reported, and are not addressed explicitly through EU law.

These facts were presented in the run-up to 8 March’s International Women’s Day, at the conference ‘Widespread violence against women in EU: At home, work, in public, online’ held by the European Fundamental Rights Agency and the Hellenic Presidency of the Council of the EU.

The report came after a three-year survey carried out by FRA, based on face-to-face interviews with 42,000 women across the EU’s 28 Member States. Women were asked about their experiences of physical, sexual and psychological violence, childhood victimisation, sexual harassment and stalking, including new mediums for abuse such as the internet. The final report indicates widespread and ongoing abuse of women throughout Europe.

“What emerges is a picture of extensive abuse that affects many women’s lives but is systematically underreported to the authorities,” it said.

Other Initiatives

The issue of violence against women features high on the agenda of several European organisations. The 2009 report by OSCE ‘Bringing Security Home; Combating Violence Against Women in the OSCE Region’ includes a compilation and evolution of good practices as implemented by the participating countries.

Furthermore, to help national authorities to create a ‘zero tolerance zone’ for domestic violence, the Council of Europe has drafted the Istanbul Convention with the aim to establish a legal framework for governments to take specific steps to prevent violence against women, protect victims and prosecute perpetrators.

The 2008 ‘EU guidelines on violence against women and girls’ set out operational objectives and intervention tools for the EU external action on combating violence against women and girls.

Finally, one of the recent initiative is a resolution drafted by MEP Eva-Britt Svensson (GUE/NGL, Sweden) and adopted unanimously in the plenary of the European Parliament on 5 April 2011 which presents ’priorities and outline of a new EU policy framework to fight violence against women. As argued by the author European women do not have equal and universal legal protection against male violence across the EU because national laws and policies differ from one Member State to another. Therefore, there is a need for an EU-wide action against all forms of violence against women.

The effectiveness  of these frameworks attracted so far only limited academic attention. One of the few studies is an analysis by Ronagh J.A. McQuigg, The International Journal of Human Rights 2012. The author  discusses the potential held by the Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence as regards the issue of domestic violence. The final conclusion is that that the adoption of this instrument is certainly a very significant development, but there is still a number of potential difficulties which may serve to hinder the effectiveness of the convention.

Further sources:

European Parliament Research Service features this month a selection of publications on the issue of Gendercide which has become one of the most pressing issues worldwide. Pointing to recent policy reports and academic research the selection highlights multiple consequences of the preference for male offspring.

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