The timeliness of combating violence against women in Europe, and beyond

Hate crime, violence and harassment against migrants, ethnic and religious minorities and marginalised groups has spiked after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, and since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. While both women and men fall victim, women are often more vulnerable. This is why it is more timely than ever that the EU moves forward on the accession to the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, the so called ‘Istanbul Convention’.

“An EU accession to the Istanbul Convention will send a strong political message that the Union is combating violence against women and aiming to achieve gender equality”, said Ms Dubravka Šimonović, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women at a joint hearing by the European Parliament committees on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) and Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) on 29 November. The Istanbul Convention is a regional obligation complementing the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Ms Tiina Astola from the European Commission explained that the Council is currently negotiating the Commission’s proposal for accession, which will support EU Member States to implement its international obligation, and deliver on the Union’s commitment. The parts that the EU will accede to will become Union law for both the Member States and the EU institutions. Among other issues, the Convention will oblige Member States to consider granting independent residence status to migrant women with violent spouses, something Social Platform and our members have long called for. Members of the European Parliament Ms Corazza Bildt and Ms Revault d’Allonnes Bonnefoy are co-authors of the Parliament’s report on the EU accession to the Istanbul Convention. Ms Corazza Bildt reminded the audience that this is not a private matter; on the contrary, it is about women committing suicide after being subject to sexual violence and dissemination of sexual photos via social media, it is about women being too afraid to go to public spaces because of fear of being attacked and raped. Civil society actors play a pivotal role in helping abused women get their dignity back by providing support services and shelters, said Ms Corazza Bildt.

Social Platform has joined a coalition of civil society organisations calling for the EU to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention to end violence against women and girls . Read more on the European Women’s Lobby website.