8 November: Loud and United - Public event and street action

Speech- Viviane Teitelbaum, EWL Vice-President

Violence against women and girls continues to be the largest violation of human’s rights in the EU. It threatens the security of half of the population in the EU. It is take many different forms, from intimate partner violence to sexual violence, commercialisation of women’s bodies and prostitution to violations of sexual and reproductive rights; and new forms of violence linked to the digital space. All forms of violence have the same goal: to silence women, maintain them in a subordinate place, maintain hierarchical roles between women and men. There can be no peace and security while women fear for their safety.

Statistics show that 2 to 7 women each day are killed in the EU by their partner or former partner - by those who supposedly loved them. 1 in 3 women have suffered physical and/or sexual violence and 1 in 2 women have experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15. 10% of women in the EU report having been victim of sexual violence and 5% have been raped with the use of force. More than 90% of the victims of sexual violence are women and 99% of the persons perpetrators are men.

Unfortunately, women’s organisations are well aware that these shocking figures cannot even give us the full picture: only a small number of women feel safe to report and ask for help. In reality, the situation is much worse and the consequences of these forms of violence in the everyday life of the survivors, including their children, are devastating and cannot be put into figures. All public actors should be invested as much as possible into giving them the response and protection they need at every single political level there is.

Violence against women is not accidental: it is structural. And it is political. This is what women’s organisations have been explaining for decades while calling for adequate, specialised policy and legal mechanisms to end violence against women and adequate protection to the victims. We need specialised instruments that have a strong gender sensitive perspective.
It is since its early days, the EWL has been calling for the EU to recognise violence against women as an EU issue that needs comprehensive EU legislative action.

30 years later, we have marked two important achievements:
the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention, (the golden standard to end violence against women in Europe) that entered into force this October.
And a proposal for the first EU Directive addressing violence against women and domestic violence.
Unfortunately, this remarkable moment that women’s organisations fought for for years is overshadowed by the hypocrisy of some Member States, including France and Germany that are trying to water down the text of the Directive and remove its gender-sensitive perspective, which is a mandate in the Istanbul Convention.
We are here today to remind those Member States that sexual violence and rape are part of EU Competences. That there are no valid arguments to let women down like this. A Directive on Violence against women cannot leave out the crime of rape that is one of the most pervasive and brutal forms of violence against women and girls systematically used to silence women across Europe. But despite that, today there is no common approach on this issue across the EU. The EWL Observatory on violence against women has developed a thourough analysis of the legal definitions of rape in the EU that shows that still today, 11 Member States have definitions on rape that are based on force as the main element of the crime. These laws fail to protect women and lead to secondary victimisation. As GREVIO points out in its last report,sexual violence are the most under-reported crimes and the least likely to end in conviction. The culture of impunity prevails.

The next trialogue meeting will be in less than one month on the 14 November and the next one in mid December. We are calling now to the historical responsibility of Member States to stand for women’s rights unequivocally and to swiftly adopt a strong Directive on violence against women that takes into account our demands. Every women and girl, regardless of where they live in Europe deserve the same level of rights and protection.

Survivors of sexual violence courageously shared with us their hard and mostly unfinished battle to obtain justice. Their testimoniesmust be heard. We thank them for their commitment to achieve fundamental changes for other women and girls; so that they do get adequate support and justice. We need to ensure there are robust legislative frameworks in place.

A common approach at EU level based on an affirmative approach is a must. As Marta Asensio, great activist and survivor of rape under chemical summission, highlights, the “only yes means yes” approach has proven to work better to protect and ensure access to justice and reparation. In countries where this model has been adopted, like Sweden, prosecutors and judges have welcomed these positive changes that have led to an increase in reporting and conviction rates. This model helps people understand that when there is no free will, when there is no mutiality, that is not sex but rape and it helps ending persistent myths about sexual crimes being only perpetrated by strangers.

The story of Marta is the story of many women across the EU. Rape and sexual violence are systematic acts of male exploitation and domination that aim at silencing women.

But today we are Loud and United, to make HerStory: to achieve a very strong EU Directive that can change the lifes of many women and girls across the EU.

Latest video

EWL event "Progress towards a Europe free from all forms of male violence" to mark the 10th aniversary of the Istanbul Convention, 12 May 2021.

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