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 the commitment of the European Commission to 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 against women and domestic 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, signaling 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 all victims of all crime.
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.
On 8 March 2022, the Commission adopted a proposal for a directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence. The proposal sets out targeted rules for the protection of this group of crime victims in order to strengthen the actions taken by the Member States. It aims to ensure a minimum level of protection across the EU against such violence, regardless of whether it takes place online or offline.
To gather views and experiences to support the preparations of the proposal, the Commission organised extensive consultation activities with stakeholders in spring 2021. The results of the open public consultation are available on the Have your say-portal.
In addition, the Commission provides funding for civil society organisations on projects tackling gender-based violence through the Daphne stream of the Citizenship, Equality, Rights and Values programme.
The EU also facilitates finding common solutions among EU countries by organising exchanges of good practices on gender equality topics. 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 supports research on gender-based violence. For instance, in support of the proposal for a directive on combating violence against women and domestic violence, the Commission commissioned the comparative study of the European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination on the criminalisation of gender-based violence against women in European States. The European Institute on Gender Equality conducted a study on the costs of gender-based violence in the European Union.
Every year, the EU marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November with a joint statement by the European Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs. The statement shows the commitment of the EU to eradicating violence against women and girls both within the Union and beyond, and calls for action to stand in solidarity with the victims and survivors. The Commission is also taking part in the global campaign of 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence and has run social media campaigns to raise awareness against this violation of human rights #SayNoStopVAW, #OrangeTheWorld and #16Days.
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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 violence against women.
Eurostat coordinates an EU survey on gender-based violence against women and other forms of interpersonal violence (EU-GBV), to be carried out by national statistical institutes with results expected in 2023. A supplementary survey will be carried out by FRA and the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) to ensure comparability of the data with the results from 2014.
In addition to survey data, since 2015, Eurostat collects administrative data recorded by national authorities (e.g. police, judiciary) in line with the methodology of 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.
In addition, a Eurobarometer on gender-based violence has been carried out in 2016 to better understand attitudes towards and perceptions of the problem.
See below a collection of visuals with key statistics on violence against women, which have been used as part of the Commission’s social media campaigns during the 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence.