Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November, the European Commission and the High Representative/Vice-President issued the following statement:
“Globally, the rights of women and girls have faced threats, reductions, or complete elimination, significantly impeding progress achieved over decades. The European Union continues to stand up against all forms of violence against women and girls. We maintain our unwavering support for women and girls who have suffered from violence, as victims and survivors, and condemn the use of sexual and gender-based violence as a weapon of war.
Violence against women and girls is a scar on all societies. The facts are shocking: in the EU and across the world, one in three women have experienced physical or sexual violence, including abuse, harassment, rape, sexual exploitation, genital mutilation, forced marriage and femicide. Invisible despair is what many women and girls have to live with. Protecting them and ending violence against women means more than striving for gender equality. It means fulfilling basic human rights. It means urgently bringing the perpetrators to justice.
We join the UN’s Global Campaign to End Violence against Women. As co-leader of the Generation Equality Forum’s Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence, we affirm our steadfast dedication to the immediate eradication of violence against women and girls, both within and beyond the European Union. We stand in solidarity with our partners, civil society, women’s rights groups, and human rights defenders, echoing their demand for justice and accountability.
This year, the EU acceded to the Istanbul Convention, marking a major step forward in making Europe a safer place for women and girls. The EU is now bound by ambitious and comprehensive standards to prevent and combat gender-based violence. Member States will have to implement measures such as training professionals in close contact with victims of violence, running awareness-raising campaigns or ensuring dissuasive sanctions for perpetrators.”
As stated in the EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, the European Commission is committed to preventing and combating gender-based violence. On 8 March 2022, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a directive to combat violence against women and domestic violence, which criminalises the most serious forms of violence against women across the EU and provides for comprehensive measures for victims’ protection, support and access to justice as well as the prevention of such violence. The proposal is currently being negotiated by the co-legislators.
On 1 October 2023, the Commission became a party to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence – the Istanbul Convention. This reference framework recognises that violence against women is a violation of their fundamental rights. The EU as a whole agrees to be bound by the Convention in areas of EU competence and its Member States must implement the measures.
In Autumn 2023, the Commission established an EU network on the prevention of gender-based violence and domestic violence. The first in-person meeting will take place in Brussels on 29-30 November 2023. The network will provide the space for Member States and stakeholders to discuss approaches for violence prevention, exchange knowledge and good practices.
In the course of 2024, the Commission will put forward a Recommendation on preventing and combating harmful practices against women and girls, such as female genital mutilation, forced sterilisation, forced abortion and early and forced marriage.
On 11 May 2022, the Commission adopted a proposal for a Regulation on preventing and combating child sexual abuse. It will oblige providers to prevent, detect, report and remove child sexual abuse material on their services. It will also create a European Centre to prevent and combat child sexual abuse as a new EU agency. The proposal is in negotiations with the co-legislators.
In parallel, the Commission has already achieved most of the actions under its first EU Strategy on victims’ rights (2020-2025), to ensure that all victims in the EU can fully benefit from their rights under EU law. On 12 July 2023, the Commission adopted the proposal for a Directive amending the 2012 Victims’ Rights Directive, the main horizontal instrument on victims’ rights. The proposal aims to further strengthen the rights of all victims of crime in the EU, including the rights of the most vulnerable victims. In October 2023, the Council finalised the first reading of the proposal.
The Commission provides funding for projects and organisations to tackle gender-based violence through the Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme. A new call for proposals, amounting to almost EUR 25 million will open for applications on 12 December. Funds will be directed towards transnational actions on tackling gender-based violence, prevention of gender-based violence in the domestic sphere, in intimate relationships and the protection of and support for survivors of gender-based violence including child protection systems.
The majority of victims of trafficking registered in the EU are women and girls. The EU’s legal and policy framework is set out in the Anti-Trafficking Directive. In April 2021, the Commission presented the EU Strategy on combating trafficking in human beings (2021-2025), which emphasises the protection of victims at all stages, taking into account, in particular, women and child victims, and trafficking for sexual exploitation. As one of the key actions of the EU Strategy, the Commission proposed a revision of the Anti-Trafficking Directive in December 2022, which is currently being negotiated and is to be adopted before the 2024 European Parliament elections.
Internationally, the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (2020-2024) as well as the Action Plan on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment in External Action 2021 – 2025 (GAP III) stand as the EU’s ambitious framework for achieving progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment. The EU, as co-leader of the Generation Equality Forum’s Action Coalition on Gender-Based Violence, will continue its efforts to curb gender-based violence, including sexual violence, throughout the world, including in conflict and emergencies. For example, the global Spotlight Initiative launched by the EU and the UN, with an initial EU investment of €500 million, aims to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.
EU financial commitments for the prevention and response to gender-based violence went from an annual average of EUR 91 million in 2014 to EUR 282 million in 2022.
In 2023, the EU took a significant step by adopting two packages under the EU Global Human Rights Sanctions regime, targeting 15 individuals and three entities for their involvement in sexual and gender-based violence crimes.
Women and girls are a particularly vulnerable group in humanitarian crises. In the Commission’s humanitarian action there is a specific focus on mitigating, preventing and responding to gender-based violence, through its policies, funding and capacity building. In 2022, the Commission allocated more than €41 million in humanitarian aid for the prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence worldwide under our protection and health programming. The EU has been an active member of the ‘Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies’ since it was founded in 2013.
As every year, the European Commission and the European External Action Service participate in the UN Women’s Orange the World campaign. Photographs of the College of Commissioners wearing orange scarfs are available on EBS.
For More Information
Sanctions (20 July 2023)
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