Male violence against women and girls (VAWG) is as an international long-term pandemic and has been recognised a fundamental human rights violation whose impacts know no borders. It happens across Europe, affecting over 250 million women and girls, and yet due to a lack of European harmonisation of legislation, the remedies and prevention methods taken by governments are haphazard and a lottery for the women and girls experiencing violence.
Violence against women and girls threatens the security of half of the population in the EU; 1 in 3 of women in Europe are affected by physical and/or sexual violence and 1 in 2 women in the EU have experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15. Furthermore, according to the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), the economic cost for violence against women and girls is estimated to €289 Billion a year – prevention not only saves money, but it saves the lives of women and girls.
Both in the current context of the increase of male violence against women and girls in the Covid-19 crisis and also looking towards the future, we need concerted action and harmonisation at the EU level to ensure all women and girls are treated equally and violence is adequately prevented. EU legal action is needed to ensure equal rights between women and men in all EU member states during times of crisis, at least as much as in times of stability. The development of new types or new ways of perpetrating violence, especially in the digital sphere, has also significantly increased.
The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) calls on the European Commission to urgently move ahead with its commitments, laid out in the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 and in the 2021 State of the Union address by President Von Der Leyen, by adopting a comprehensive legislative framework, grounded in a horizontal Directive that holistically prevents, combats and eliminates all forms of male violence against women and girls, including sexual exploitation and online violence.
Ahead of the release of the European Commission’s proposal on 8 December 2021, the European Women’s Lobby has summarised its views and recommendations in a Paper calling on the European Commission to propose ambitious EU legal actions to fight violence against women and girls. This paper is based on a research project conducted by legal academic experts to evaluate the potential scope and legal basis for the Directive and is the result of consultation with our membership throughout the EU.
EWL’s key recommendations for the Directive include the adoption and enhancement of the gold standards of the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention – to date the most comprehensive international treaty on the topic. The Directive must address all forms of violence against women and girls, including work-related, public sphere online or offline, as well as to explicitly address sexual exploitation, and violence against women subject to intersecting forms of discrimination. EWL also underlines the need to ensure the harmonisation of existing EU legislative instruments relative to forms of violence against women and girls.
The paper takes the evolving environment into account and explores adding VAWG to the list of Eurocrimes, as well as other possible legal bases to prevent and combat some forms, if not all, of violence against women and girls.
This is a key moment in the long history of our movement’s fight against male VAWG, and it is crucial that all EU Institutions and Member States step up and play their part: together, we can disrupt the continuum of violence and create an EU where all women and girls live free from violence and the fear of it.