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Elimination of violence against women

27 November 2018
by eub2 -- last modified 27 November 2018

Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread and devastating human rights violations across the globe. The European Union has put substantial actions in place to ensure violence against girls and women is ended once and for all.


What does the European Commission do to tackle violence against women within the EU?

In its Strategic engagement for gender equality 2016-2019, the Commission made the fight against gender-based violence and the protection of victims one of its five priority areas. The European Commission is running a two-year campaign to put and to violence against women until the end of 2018. The European Commission provided 15 million euros in funding for Member States, local governments, relevant professionals and civil society organisations to finance concrete projects and raise awareness on this issue. The European Commission will conclude its campaign by hosting a high-level conference for representatives from Member States and international organisations, together with civil society actors and activists on 4 December 2018 in Brussels.

Following a proposal by the Commission (see statement), the Council adopted a decision on signing the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention in May 2017. This Convention is a legally binding treaty that aims at combating violence against women and girls, preventing violence, protecting victims and ending impunity of perpetrators. The Commission had taken the first important step in committing the European Union as a full-fledged party to the Convention under international law. Negotiations on the conclusion decision, which will allow for the ratification of the Convention by the EU, are ongoing. The European Parliament will then need to consent to the conclusion of the agreement by the EU beforethe adoption of the conclusion decision by the Council. All EU Member States have signed the Istanbul Convention and 20 Member States have so far completed the ratification process. The Commission calls on all remaining Member States to ratify it as swiftly as possible.

The Commission has funded several projects on violence and sexual harassment against women. For example, the CARVE project has produced a best practice guide for companies on how to respond to violence against women in the workplace, and the project "Safe at Home, Safe at Work" of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). All projects funded in this area are available here.

The European Union and its Member states are also involved in discussions with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in view of the adoption of a new Convention, accompanied by a Recommendation on violence and harassment in the world of work. The Commission actively prepares and supports this process, which should be concluded in June 2019. 

Erasmus+ supports projects and partnerships between education institutions aimed at tackling discrimination based on gender such as the strategic partnership on "Breaking the silence: fight against violence and abuse of women". In sports, for instance the Commission also supports Erasmus+ projects, like i-Protect which works with grassroots sports organisations, empowers children and prevents them from violence, negligence, harassment and abuse..

When it comes to sexual harassment in the transport sector, the Commission has set up the Women in Transport – EU Platform for change to encourage stakeholders to take measures against gender-based violence in this male dominated sector and to exchange good practices.

What data is collected to better understand violence against women?

Effective policy making requires accurate and comparable data on gender-based violence. The Commission is supporting data collection and research on violence and harassment against women through Eurostat and European Institute on Gender Equality (EIGE).

To build on the first EU-wide survey on women's experiences of various forms of violence carried out by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), the Commission has launched the development of a new EU-wide survey on gender-based violence, coordinated by Eurostat with the involvement of national statistical institutes, which will be carried out in 2019-20. Eurostat is also collecting crime statistics on the number of reported incidents of intentional homicide, rape and sexual assault, for both men and women. The data shows that in many Member States over half of all female murder victims are killed by an intimate partner, relative or family member.

The European Institute for Gender Equality has developed methods and a set of indicators for estimating the risk of female genital mutilation. The agency has also developed a way to measure the phenomenon of gender-based violence, as part of its Gender Equality Index.

How are victims of violence protected and supported?

Since November 2015, the Victims' Rights Directive lays out a set of binding rights for victims of crime, as well as clear obligations for EU Member States to guarantee these rights in practice. These rules recognise that victims of gender-based violence and domestic violence are particularly vulnerable. Victims have the right to protection and to access support services according to their needs. (see IP/15/6095 and factsheet).

Thanks to EU rules on the recognition of protection orders, victims of domestic violence also benefit from extra protection when travelling between EU countries. These rules consist of a Directive and a Regulation.

There are also rules on compensation for victims of crime. According to the Compensation Directive, individuals who are victims of intentional and violent crime in another EU Member State can receive fair compensation from the country where the crime took place.

What is the Commission doing internally to protect its staff?

The Commission has a zero tolerance policy for any form of harassment. Our internal rules require all our staff to behave with integrity.

Since 2006, we have put in place a comprehensive and effective system to deal with any form of inappropriate behaviour, including sexual harassment. The Commission anti-harassment policy has been reaffirmed most recently by the Strategy on Diversity and Inclusion adopted in July 2017.

In case inappropriate behaviour, we have strong rules and procedures in place which encourage people to speak out – either via informal or via formal channels. Our Human Resources department offers full psychological support to colleagues in difficult situations. It also includes a team tasked with looking at any complaints and carrying out investigations if necessary.

The EEAS has also recently adopted an extensive anti-harassment package to be applied within the EEAS and the EU Delegations.

What is done at EU-level to eradicate trafficking?

The large majority of victims of trafficking registered in the EU are women and girls (80%), according to Eurostat. The EU recognises that trafficking of females is a form of violence against women and has adopted comprehensive legal and policy frameworks to eradicate it. According to the latest intelligence from Europol, most of the reported victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation were girls aged between 12 and 17 years old, exploited in some cases along with adult victims no older than 20 years old.

The Anti-trafficking Directive has provisions for protecting victims and for preventing more people from becoming victims.

The EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016 complements this legislation with a series of actions, including actions which focus on the gender dimension of human trafficking.

On 4 December 2017, the Commission published a Communication outlining its priority actions to address trafficking in human beings. These build on the ongoing work, taking stock of the achievements of the EU strategy 2012-2016 and ensuring the continuation of efforts, including taking gender into consideration, coordination with stakeholders and increasing the knowledge base.

In a report published on the occasion of the EU Anti-Trafficking Day in October 2018 as a deliverable under the December 2017 Communication, the European Institute for Gender Equality, in cooperation with the European Commission, developed recommendations to help Member States implement the EU Anti-Trafficking Directive and the Victims' Rights Directive in a gender-specific manner.

The Commission will shortly present its second report on the progress made in the fight against trafficking in human beings.

How does the EU address gender-based violence in its asylum policy?

In the context of the ongoing reform of the Common European Asylum System, the European Commission has proposed to strengthen the provisions for applicants with special needs, including for victims of gender-based violence. This involves more ambitious provisions for assessing special needs and an obligation for Member States to address them with adequate support.

The strengthened provisions also cover asylum applicants' access to medical care, legal support, appropriate trauma counselling and psycho-social care. The proposal for the new Asylum Procedure Regulation advocates gender-sensitive international protection. For instance, women should be given an effective opportunity to have a private interview, separate from their spouse or other family members. Where possible they should be assisted by female interpreters and female medical practitioners, especially if they may have been a victim of gender-based violence.

The European Asylum Support Office (EASO) has furthermore developed several tools to ensure an effective implementation of legal provisions for gender-related issues.

What is the EU doing to help promote gender equality outside the European Union?

The European Union puts women's human rights and gender equality at the core of all its external policies. In 2017, the Commission committed €431 million for specific actions for gender equality and women's empowerment.

The overarching Strategic Engagement for Gender Equality (2016-2019), the 2016-2020 EU Gender Action Plan for external action, and the EU Global Strategy for women peace and security form the guiding framework for EU actions and cooperation with partner countries, international and civil society organisations, and the private sector. The European Consensus on Development is also reaffirming the EU's commitment to promote gender equality, women and girls' rights as a priority across all areas of action and as a vital way to achieve all related goals.

The EU's Gender Action Plan 2016-2020 has set an ambitious target to mainstream gender actions across 85% of all new EU initiatives by 2020. Progress is undeniable: 92% of all new initiatives adopted in area of the EU's foreign policy and around 66% of all new initiatives adopted in the EU's development work have been marked as aimed at promoting gender equality and women empowerment.

Last year, the EU and the UN launched a €500 million "Spotlight Initiative" with the EU as main contributor to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls. It focuses on domestic and family violence, sexual and gender-based violence and harmful practices, femicide, trafficking in human beings, and sexual and economic exploitation. The initiative runs between 2017 and 2023 (see video).

The EU is also at the forefront in fighting for gender equality and women's empowerment in conflict situations, as part of the EU's implementation of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. The EU is currently reviewing its policy, following the task received from the Council in March 2018, and the new adoption is expected by the end of 2018. The EU is taking concrete actions in the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and its follow-up resolutions, in combatting and responding to conflict related sexual and gender based violence as well as through the zero tolerance policy of sexual exploitation, abuse and sexual harassment.

The European Union is closely interacting with the UN and all relevant stakeholders, on the need for proper inclusion of women in prevention of conflict and post-conflict situations. This includes their participation in peace processes, and in efforts to combat all forms of violence against women.

Also in social, trade and development policies, the EU actively promotes the ratification and effective implementation of international labour standards of high relevance for the elimination of violence against women. We combat issues such as forced labour and child labour in multilateral fora and in our bilateral relations with partner countries. In 2018, the Commission collaborated with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to promote safe and fair migration and end violence against migrant women, in particular in Southeast Asia and in Africa.

The EU is actively engaged with partner countries, including in multilateral fora to consistently contribute to advancing the gender agenda, We systematically raise gender issues in our political and human rights dialogues. The new human rights and democracy country strategies for the period 2016-2020 included gender equality as one of the main priorities. Moreover, the EU carries out political demarches, takes political positions and funds actions addressing inequalities and discrimination of women and girls. Gender issues are also largely covered in our policies and programmes on election observation, transitional justice, human rights defenders, and the International Criminal Court.

What is the EU doing to protect women in humanitarian crises?

EU-funded humanitarian aid projects across the world are adapted to the different needs of boys, men, women and girls. All projects take into account gender to ensure maximum impact so aid reaches those that need it most.

In 2017, the EU allocated nearly €22 million for the prevention and response to gender-based violence in humanitarian settings. Since 2014, we spent more than €1 million per year on projects that contribute to building the capacity of the humanitarian system to deal with gender and gender-based violence. For instance, the EU supported recently the revision of the Gender Handbook for Humanitarian Action.

Since June 2017, the EU has also been leading the global initiative Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence. The call to action brings together close to 80 humanitarian organisations with one mission: that gender-based violence is recognised as life threatening and addressed from the earliest onset of a crisis. Achievements of the EU's leadership so far, particularly include strengthened support for the global initiative (17 members have joined the initiative, including 5 EU Member States) and strengthening the initiative's impact at field level. For instance, the EU is supporting the piloting of the Call to Action in Nigeria and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The EU also supports the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, as well as the Programme of Action on the International Conference on Population and Development.

We work closely with civil society actors, in particular women's organisations, private foundations and the private sector.

Source: European Commission

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