In Europe one in five women has “suffered violence”, and one in 10 women have “suffered sexual violence”, justice, fundamental rights and citizenship commissioner Viviane Reding has told MEPs.
Violence against women has been high on the European parliament’s agenda, with many MEPs backing the ‘one billion rising’ campaign advocating non-violence against women and girls.
The elimination of violence against women and girls will also be the priority theme at the 57th session of the UN commission on the status of women in March.
Reding said that violence against women and girls is “a brutal manifestation of gender inequality” and is a “violation of human rights”.
The commissioner was responding to an oral question tabled by the chair of the women’s rights and gender equality (FEMM) committee Mikael Gustafsson.
Gustafsson said that the FEMM committee had drafted a motion for resolution as a “strong signal” that more must be done to protect the rights of women and girls.
He said, “I would like to underscore that it [the resolution] is an entire committee resolution, we are working together on this and we want to make this issue a priority for all of our colleagues in parliament.
The Swedish MEP said, “There is not a single day that goes by” where there isn’t news of “women who are abused to death” or “excluded in prostitution or who are raped by somebody they know and trusted”.
“Some girls and women suffer from the threat of violence from men during the course of their lives. It is a systematic abuse of their human rights.”
“The resolution sets out important measures that the European Union needs to undertake on a global level.
He added that “violence is the biggest obstacle to equality”.
He said that women “organise their lives” around the threat of violence from men, choosing different routes home at night, avoiding public transport at certain times of day and, where possible, trying to travel in groups.
“The EU has to stand up for women and girls,” stressed the Swedish deputy, adding that the EU’s foreign affairs and development policies must include this dimension.
“Together we can eliminate violence against women and girls.”
Commissioner Reding echoed this sentiment, saying, that Europe “must not and cannot ignore” violence against women.
The commissioner, who has led campaigns in parliament on women’s rights, said that she felt “regret” at the inability of the United Nation’s member states to agree on a consensual outcome concerning the status of women last year.
Despite this, she said, “The EU will fully support the efforts of the United Nations to achieve gender equality, in particular by removing all forms of violence.”
The Luxembourgish official said that the EU would focus on awareness raising and funding, concrete legislative action, the exchange of good practices, and the empowerment of women.
“The EU is committed to combating all forms of violence against women both within the European territories and in its external policies.”
Written for theparliament.com