At the EU level

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

[Brussels 25 November] Every year on November 25, under the lead of the United Nations, activists around the world join forces for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. They want to raise awareness and trigger action to end the global pandemic of violence against women and girls, which is unmistakably the most widespread violation of women’s human rights.

For the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) this day also signifies a moment to look backwards and forwards in order to make up the balance in the struggle for a Europe free from violence against women.

Tools and data

When we look backwards we can say that over the last two years, the European Union (EU) has adopted new tools which can be used by women to gain protection and support: the European Protection Order (guaranteeing women’s protection when they travel in the EU) and the victims’ rights directive (including a gender perspective). Also, the two EU agencies dedicated to fundamental rights and gender equality, the Fundamental Rights Agency and the European Institute for Gender Equality worked on establishing and delivering data, a key milestone for a better understanding of the scope of violence against women and girls in Europe.

Furthermore, over its last term the European Parliament has actively pushed for an EU strategy to end all forms of violence against women. February 2014 saw the adoption of strong resolutions calling for: a European law to tackle violence against women; the recognition of prostitution as an obstacle to equality between women and men and the adoption of the Nordic (abolitionist) model in the EU.

EWL also applauds the entry into force of the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention, which is the first legally-binding instrument in Europe in the field of violence against women & domestic violence, and the most far reaching international treaty to tackle this serious violation of human rights.

Political will to improve and harmonise national laws?

However when looking to the future, we see that only 8 EU countries have ratified the Istanbul Convention until now. Besides, despite promises from the European Commission to come up with a Strategy to end violence against women in 2010, and despite statements of the Council to adopt such a strategy, to develop more policies and tools, the EU is not yet taking all the necessary steps to tackle the root causes of violence and protect all women and girls.

Violence against women remains invisible and underestimated. The EU has no legally binding instrument providing a comprehensive framework to end and prevent violence against women and girls in all Member States. EU Member States tackle violence in widely differing ways. Women and girls are not equally protected in the EU, and the absence of harmonised European legislative and policy framework has important consequences on the ability of women to resist and survive male violence.

From words to action

The European Women’s Lobby and its members urge the European Union more concretely to:

  • Establish 2016 as the EU Year to End violence against women, with substantial resources to raise awareness and support actions at all levels.
  • Adopt and implement a comprehensive EU Strategy to end all forms of violence against women in Europe, including prostitution, to end impunity, protect all women, prevent violence and raise awareness, provide quality services, and give women access to justice, based on data and partnership with women’s organisations.
  • Adopt EU legislation to end prostitution and sex trafficking through the criminalisation of the purchase of sex and of procuring, the development of exit programmes and education actions.
  • The EU and its member states: ratify the Istanbul Convention.

These demands are also mentioned in EWL’s Beijing+20 report.

3 days of action
The European Women’s Lobby is organising 3 days of action in Brussels to end violence against women in December! Two events are open for the public. Register please!

  • 7 & 8 December
    Over 30 experts of the EWL’s Observatory on Violence against Women are holding a closed meeting in Brussels. They will discuss the recent developments at national and European level, take stock of the work of the EWL Observatory over the last 20 years and develop strategies for the future.
  • 8 December18:30
    The Nordic Model as an inspiration for gender equality
    Conference followed by a reception, organised with the Norway House in Brussels. All info here
  • 9 December
    Breakfast event "A Europe free from violence against women: from the grassroots to the transnational." More info will follow.
  • 9 December, 9h-18h
    Closed Working meeting of the signatories of the Brussels Call “Together for a Europe free from prostitution”. Around 40 representatives of abolitionist NGOs from all over Europe will meet to discuss recent developments on prostitution in Europe and beyond and build strategies for the EU and national levels.

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