The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, observed every year on 25 November, highlights that violence against women and girls is still one of the most widespread and devastating human rights violations across the globe. Ahead of the day, the European Commission issued a statement reiterating its commitment in eradicating such violence.
“Violence against women touches every society on this globe. It happens everywhere: at home, at work, in schools and universities, on the street, in public transport, online, at festivals and sport events. One in every three of women worldwide has experienced either physical and/or sexual violence. Around half of women have experienced verbal, physical or online sexual harassment.
Child marriage still occurs in every region of the world. About 12 million girls under 18 marry each year - one every two seconds. Married girls often quickly become pregnant, drop out of school and are at higher risk of domestic violence than women who marry as adults. At least 200 million women and girls alive today have undergone female genital mutilation in 30 countries.
80% of trafficking victims in the EU are female. According to the latest intelligence from Europol, most of the reported victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation were girls aged between 12 and 17 years old, exploited in some cases along with adult victims no older than 20 years old.
We have to change the perception in our societies that harassing or being violent to a woman is normal and accepted behaviour. We are all responsible to say no, openly reject acts of violence or harassment, and stand by the victims.
Things have however started to change. Our action is bearing fruit.
We are in the process of concluding the EU signing of the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence and harassment against women. The Convention gives to the victims the right of protection and support. The EU will be bound by these rules as signing party.
Over the last two years, we supported more than 1.5 million girls and women with services for protection and care related to female genital mutilation. As a result, 3000 communities, representing 8.5 million individuals, made public declarations on abandoning this practice. On child marriage, the EU reached over 1.6 million individuals through initiatives designed to change attitudes and practices regarding girls’ rights. In 30 years, female genital mutilation has decreased by 50% in Africa. In South Asia, the percentage of girls married under the age of 15 has gone down by half.
In December last year, we came together with the OECD, the Council of Europe and UN Women to agree on a global action to combat violence against women. We agreed to enhance collaboration and called on world leaders from both public and private sectors to join the intensified global effort to fight violence against women.
We have launched our Spotlight Initiative in partnership with the United Nations. With an unprecedented initial investment of €500 million, we are protecting and giving voice to those women and girls who were silenced by their societies and now want to speak up. We are also leading a global initiative Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies. This initiative brings together nearly 80 aid actors to foster accountability for addressing gender-based violence.
Eradicating violence against women and girls is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It is a first step towards global peace and security, a precondition for the promotion, protection and fulfilment of human rights, gender equality, democracy, and economic growth.
We must eliminate gender-based violence once and for all. The European Union will continue to work vigorously through all instruments at its disposal to eliminate violence against women and girls. A life free of violence is an inalienable and fundamental right. Violence must stop now.”