“Violence against women is not a fair-weather topic. In times of economic crisis, domestic violence rises across Europe. I am delighted that we succeeded in mobilising a cross-party group of women MEPs to go on stage for this call to end violence against women,” said Franziska Brantner, one of the MEPs performing in the play.
The play, which takes place two days before International Women’s Day, underscores the message that violence against women is unacceptable and must be stopped.
One in three women in the world have either been beaten or raped - about one billion women. In Europe, 45% of women have been victims of violence, including sexual abuse, domestic violence, genital mutilation, sexual harassment, rape, forced sterilisation, and trafficking for sexual exploitation.
The impact of domestic violence alone costs the EU an estimated €16 billion per year, amounting to €1 million every half hour, said V-Day, the global activist movement founded by Ensler that combats violence against women.
According to V-Day calculations, if the budgets for prevention of this violence were increased by just €1, it could save €87 in total costs of dealing with the problem.
The series of monologues was first performed in New York in 1996, in the basement of the Conelia Street Café. Five years later it was performed in Madison Square Garden by an all-star cast featuring Calista Flockhart, Jane Fonda, Melissa Ethridge, Oprah Winfrey and others.
The play is based on a series of interviews with women about the most intimate part of their body. It is a vivid and hilarious voyage into female sexuality, in all its complexity and mystery. Ensler is casting new light on real women’s stories of intimacy, vulnerability and sexual self-discovery. Over the years, she was able to convince numbers of well-known women to perform in the play.
Glenn Close once said, "You become part of her crusade. There's a core of us who are Eve's army."
Now Ensler has enlisted MEPs, including France’s Marielle Gallo, Belgium’s Isabelle Durant, Germany’s Fraziska Brantner, Austria’s Ulrike Lunacek and Portugal’s Ana Gomes.
The MEPs are using the event to pass a certain number of political demands including ensuring that appropriate EU funding continues for programmes to end violence against women, and making sure that the pan-European ‘victims package’ contains specific measures for victims of domestic violence.
The call for action also urges EU decision-makers to honour existing commitments and devise a European Strategy for preventing and combating violence, which will include appropriate accountability mechanism.
Their call is directed to the EU executive, which no longer sees the need to explicitly include the elimination of sexual violence against women in its policy objectives, said one of the performing MEPs, Kartika Tamara Liotard of the Netherlands.
"I suggest that the Commission reflects upon the many vaginas that are going to be affected by that," she said.
But beyond the good cause, the show in the European Parliament might well create a new way of doing politics. Isabelle Durant said: "Humour and tenderness are awesome political weapons to fight the violence done to women.”
Swedish MEP Cecilia Wilkström added that the play will trigger many reactions in the Parliament, “people will be both upset and moved but no one will be left untouched.”