Violence against women - a universal scourge

Date

International Day against Gender-Based Violence on 25.11.2021

Violence against women is one of the most widespread human rights violations worldwide.  

The first survey on violence against women, conducted in 2014 in the Member States of the European Union among a sample of 42,000 women, surprised everyone. It revealed that one in three women in Europe has experienced at least one form of sexual or physical violence and one in two women has been the victim of multiple forms of sexual harassment.

Violence against women can take many forms: Assault, rape, domestic, psychological and verbal violence, femicide under the guise of honour killing, genital mutilation, sexual harassment or assault on the internet, cyberbullying, hate speech on social networks and much more.

In the most extreme cases, violence against women leads to death. Worldwide, an estimated 137 women are killed by their intimate partner or a family member every day. Approximately one in seven women has suffered physical and/or sexual violence at the hands of an intimate partner or husband in the last twelve months.

Violence against women affects poor and rich countries alike. It takes different forms depending on the country. Here in Brussels, the seat of the EU, violence against women also takes place. More and more young girls become victims of violence when they go to discos. Without their knowledge, drugs or so-called knock-out drops are mixed into their drinks in order to rape them afterwards.

The extent of violence against women and girls remains alarming everywhere.

Against this background, theUnited Nations Secretary-General'scampaign "All UNITED to End Violence against Women by 2030 " ("All UNiS"campaign), organised by UN Women, aims to prevent and eliminate violence against women and girls in all parts of the world.

It calls on governments, civil society, women's organisations, youth, the private sector, the media and the entire United Nations system to join forces to combat the global pandemic of violence.

Therefore, we need to engage and create opportunities to discuss the challenges we face, such as the policy of silence that prevails almost everywhere women are victims of violence. Reporting physical violence against a girl or woman is not an act of denunciation, but should rather contribute to the development of strategies to combat this recurrent phenomenon in society.

In the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993, violence against women is defined as : 

"any act of violence directed against the female sex which causes or is likely to cause physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life".

Humanitarian crises can increase women's vulnerability to violence, as is the case in conflict and post-conflict regions.

In the past year, it has been observed that there has been an increase in gender-based violence violations in the context of Covid 19 and the Lockdown measures in Europe. Indeed, mobility restrictions, social isolation and economic insecurity have increased women's vulnerability to domestic violence.

States should therefore take decisive action so that together we can achieve the elimination of violence throughout the world.

In my parliamentary work, I advocate for feminist and intersectional policies that protect women and especially marginalised women. For example, as rapporteur of the report on sexual education and reproductive health or the third EU action plan for gender equality.

During her presentation, the President of the EU Commission, von der Leyen, promised that violence against women is, of course, also a crime against humanity. It is now time to put this promise into practice.

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