Directive must be concluded on gender-based violence
Combating root causes central to progress.
November 25th marks International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, seeking to combat one of the most long-standing and prevalent human rights violations across the world. Gender-based violence, despite a change in the narrative globally and in Europe, has not adequately been tackled through concrete measures, with (yet another) international day looking to highlight the necessity for action in enforceable, binding measures.
The global statistics regarding gender-based violence are astounding, with around 50 women losing their life to domestic violence every week, while 75% of women within a professional setting have experienced sexual harassment. In Europe, over 80% of those who experience violence do not seek professional help, 32% of perpetrators of sexual harassment come from the employment context, with 44% having suffered psychological violence from a partner in their lifetime. In economic terms, the estimated annual cost of our inaction against gender-based violence amounts to €366 billion each year across various sectors.
While belated, some initiatives have received liftoff in Europe, with one of note being the ratification of the Istanbul convention, which came into force on October 1st of this year. Designed to protect women from gender-based violence and domestic violence, while also promoting equality, the Istanbul Convention recognises that violence against women is a serious human rights violation and a form of discrimination that can take many different forms, including physical, sexual, psychological, and economic violence. The convention establishes a comprehensive framework for addressing violence against women, including prevention measures, victim support services, and legal and law enforcement measures.
There are gaps however, as the Istanbul Convention do not cover or address specifically cyber violence and harassment. Initiated before the EU’s accession to the convention, legislation on gender-based violence in the form of the “Combating violence against women and domestic violence” directive was proposed by the Commission in March 2022. The proposed directive will criminalise rape based on lack of consent, female genital mutilation and cyber violence, now (thanks to EP amendments) presenting clear and precise proposals to prevent and address these issues. Despite cyber violence’s wide prevalence, regulation is fragmented both at EU and Member State level, with the initial Commission draft failing to address this issue, the workplace dimension and economic harm imposed upon victims.
As trilogue negotiations continue on this file, action cannot come quick enough for those at risk. The upcoming European elections, with a change in the Parliament and Commission, represents a real danger to this directive, and we use International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women to call on those involved to prioritise the adoption of this crucial text.