[Brussels 20 November 2019] Despite progress over the last decades on equality between women and men, there is no single country in the world, let alone in the EU, where women and girls are free from male violence. There is not a single area in any woman’s life where she is not exposed to male violence or the threat of male violence. Intimate partner violence, psychological violence, sexual violence and rape, female genital mutilation, sexual exploitation and trafficking, harassment and stalking - including in the digital space-, are the unacceptable everyday reality of many women across Europe.
This is the most widespread violation of human rights in Europe: male violence against women threatens the security of half of the population in the EU, affecting over 250 million women and girls. Ending violence against women is an obligation of all societies. As Joanna Maycock, EWL Secretary General, highlighted in her recent intervention at the FEMM Committee hearing on “Violence against women in Member States and best practices” (18 November): “there can be no peace and security while women fear for their safety in their homes, in workplaces and in public places in Europe”.
We envision a Europe where women are free from all forms of violence against women, including sexual exploitation and rape, hypersexualisation and objectification. Objectification of women seeks to enable our coercion and exploitation. Violence against women aims to silence us.
Together with its members across Europe, the European Women’s Lobby will join the 16 days of activism campaign to disseminate on our social media channels our calls for EU action to end violence against women and girls and our main takeaways and recommendations from the Women Object: Week of action to End Sexual Exploitation and the Brussels Call Conference on Europe free from Prostitution.
On 25 November, International Day for the elimination of violence against women and girls, women all over Europe are rising their voice breaking the silence! We have had enough: Women object!
This year again, women and girls are taking up the streets of many cities to say loudly and firmly that we want to live a life free from violence and also the fear of it. We are LOUD and we are UNITED! We might hear many statements from decision makers showing good intentions; but we want EU and its Member State to take up their responsibility in ensuring their right to life, and the right to live being safe and free from violence. We want concrete action.
You can join our call for concrete EU action level by signing up this petition: “Rise up against violence!”, run in partnership with We move.
In this regard, the EWL calls on the EU Member States to finalise the negotiations in the Council for the EU to access the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. The Istanbul Convention is the most comprehensive treaty we have to date in Europe to assist in addressing different forms of violence against women.
In June 2017, the EU signed the European convention to end violence against women, sending a very strong political message on its commitment to put an end to this human rights violation. However, more than two years after this first step has been taken, the process is blocked: EU Member States haven’t been able to reach an agreement on the EU accession to the Convention. For the Convention to be effective, the EU and all the EU Member States need to access or ratify it and ensure comprehensive implementation. While all the Member States have signed and the vast majority ratified, 7 EU member States haven’t ratified yet: Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania; Latvia, Slovakia and the UK.
All Member States and Presidencies of the Council of the European Union need to show strong leadership and commitment to ensure that the EU fulfills its promise. We are urging the Member States to take up their responsibility in ensuring the right of women and girls to be free from violence and to be safe. We will ask them to lead progress and to have reached the decision on the EU accession to the Istanbul Convention by 25 November 2020.
After the EU elections in May 2019, more women entered in the European Parliament and Ursula Von der Leyen, the President of the new European Commission, set the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention is a priority and announced considering adding violence against women as a eurocrime, in case there is no progress with the EU’s accession. In the recent Conference of PES Women on “Breaking the silence on online violence against women”,where the EWL was highly present and involved moderating two panels, Commissioner-Designate for Equality, Hellena Dalli, confirmed that “The President-elect made the importance of cracking down on all forms of violence against women very clear in her mission letter […]. I am mandated to develop a new European Gender Equality Strategy and to address areas in which women still face additional barriers. In this post-2019 Strategy, the eradication of gender-based violence will be one of the major priorities.”
In this new context, EWL calls on the EU to develop a comprehensive strategy and an action plan to end all forms of violence. On top of the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention, this plan should include:
• Adding violence against women as a Eurocrime and recognise the need to combat violence against women as a common goal of the EU
• Enhance existing legislation to ensure compliance with the Istanbul Convention
• A Directive on all forms of violence against women and girls including definitions of different forms of violence, encompassing intimate partner violence and sexual exploitation; and common standards for data collection.
• Increase transnational means of collaboration to end violence and sexual exploitation.
• The appointment of an EU coordinator on ending violence against women and girls.
We are LOUD and we are UNITED!