EU needs to take a stand against domestic violence

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of PLC.

Violence is not just black and white, it has many different shades. On 7 December EU decision-makers adopted Council conclusions on Combating Violence Against Women, and the Provisions of Support Services for Victims of Domestic Violence. It is a positive step forward but more is needed, argues Annica Ryngbeck.

Annica Ryngbeck is policy officer for fundamental rights and equality at the Social Platform, a European network of 46 civil society organisations.

"The economic crisis forces us to move faster because violence against women is increasing (reports show that cases of domestic violence have gone up 17% in UK); victims of abuse have fewer resources to be safe, to flee and to protect themselves from violence. This is the direct impact of public spending cuts on policy and judiciary, legal aid, public health services, welfare benefits and housing benefits.

Violence against women costs EU member states at least €16 billion every year. However, the annual budget for prevention programmes is 1,000 times less. Prevention is always better than a cure; it is crucial we stop violence and not just deal with the after effects. 

Violence against women is more than domestic violence – it goes beyond gender and also happens outside the home: Women and girls represent half of the population and are discriminated against on the basis of not only their sex and gender, but also in combination with other characteristics, such as disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity and ethnic origin.

Anyone can be a victim of violence and it can happen anywhere. Bias violence is not only a personal attack but an expression of intolerance and violation against fundamental values which should be respected in all society.

For example if you are an older Romani woman living in poverty you can be targeted because of your gender, ethnicity, age and/or social status as well as because you are more likely to not report the incidents because of one or many of these factors. Bias violence includes all these types and aspects of violence that makes the link between inequalities in society that are a part of the understanding of violence, such as discrimination and poverty.

Bias violence is a serious threat which is costly not only for individuals but for the whole society. Combating and preventing violence is a responsibility and commitment the EU should live up to – It is difficult to understand that membersStates accept to pay so much for the consequences of violence and so little in ensuring that it does not happen; especially considering it is an investment in people’s human capital as well as in the economy.

We have made a proposal with several concrete actions to be taken at the EU, national and regional level. When it comes to Violence Against Women we call on the EU to:

  • Adopt a comprehensive strategy;
  • Assign 2015 a European Year to raise awareness to the general public;
  • To ratify the Council of Europe Convention.

These proposals have now been supported by the member states.

We also ask the Commission to build on existing international and European instruments and propose EU criminal law which explicitly combats all forms of bias violence. We also ask for systematic assessment of expertise already developed thanks to various EU programmes and to mainstream issues relating to bias violence into relevant EU policies as a part of the mainstreaming of fundamental rights and equality.

Our New Year promise should be to take a big step forward to develop a comprehensive EU strategy to combat Violence Against Women and bias violence with actions on all fronts. Let’s make the next International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 25 November 2013, our deadline."

Further Reading