What is the EU doing?

The EU protects women and children from gender-based and domestic violence through legislation and practical measures.

The EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 confirms that the European Commission will do all it can to prevent and combat gender-based violence, support and protect victims, and hold perpetrators accountable. The Gender Equality Strategy provides for an ambitious set of measures for ending gender-based violence.

The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence – the ‘Istanbul Convention’ – is the benchmark for international standards in this field. The EU signed the Convention in 2017, signalling the intention to become a party to this most advanced human rights agreement on protecting women from violence. Concluding the EU’s accession is a key priority for the Commission.

No specific legal instrument currently addresses violence against women and domestic violence at EU level. The topic is nevertheless covered by several directives and regulations in particular in the areas of judicial  cooperation  in  criminal  matters (especially  as  regards  crime prevention and the rights of victims of crime), equality  between  women  and  men and asylum policy.

For instance, victims' rights are reinforced at all stages of the criminal process through an EU directive establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime. The directive puts strong emphasis on access to appropriate support, including specialised support for women and children who have been victims of different forms of violence.

The EU has also set up instruments for the mutual recognition of protection measures. These ensure that measures such as restraining or barring orders issued in one Member State are recognised in another with minimum bureaucracy. Member States are also required to prohibit sex-based harassment in employment and in the access to and supply of goods and services. 

As announced in the Commission Work Programme 2021, the Commission intends to make a new legislative proposal to prevent and combat gender-based violence against women and domestic violence. The proposal will aim to strengthen the actions taken by the Member States by ensuring a minimum level of protection across the EU, both online and offline.

You can participate by sharing your opinions and views through the Have your say-portal, including by participating in the open public consultation.

Further information on the legislative initiative is available in the Roadmap and Inception Impact Assessment, which have been published on the Have your say-portal.

In addition, the Commission provides funding for organisations on projects tackling gender-based violence through the Daphne stream of the Citizenship, Equality, Rights and Values programme.

The EU facilitates finding common solutions among EU countries by organising exchanges of good practices. For example, the Mutual Learning Programme in Gender Equality has facilitated seminars on various aspects of ending violence against women and domestic violence. The EU also conducts research on gender-based violence.

Collecting reliable data on gender-based violence

Violence is still regrettably under-reported: only about a third of women who are physically or sexually abused by their partners contact the authorities. In addition, complaints are not systematically recorded, and the data is not easily comparable between EU countries.

Accurate data on the problem is key to develop efficient and effective policy and legal responses and to assess trends and progress.

In March 2014, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) published the results of the first ever EU-wide survey on women's experiences of violence.

In 2015, Eurostat collected administrative data recorded by national authorities (e.g. police, judiciary) with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) has produced an online mapping tool on administrative data sources and other statistics, as well as studies on violence against women and FGM.

Eurostat is working towards an EU survey on gender-based violence, to be carried out by national statistical institutes with results expected in 2023.

In addition, a Eurobarometer on gender-based violence has been carried out in order to better understand attitudes towards and perceptions of the problem.

2014 FRA EU-wide survey on violence against women 

EIGE studies on violence against women and FGM 

Here you’ll find the Eurobarometer factsheets published in November 2016, from the Say NO! campaign to stop violence against women 



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