In all societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture.
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, par.11
Violence against women both violates and impairs or nullifies the enjoyment by women of their human rights and fundamental freedoms… In all societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse that cuts across lines of income, class and culture.
Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, par. 112
Gender-based violence is a form of violation of human rights, it is widespread worldwide, occurring, to a greater or lesser degree, in all societies and affecting women irrespective of income, education, class, race or ethnicity (Infographic: Violence against women: global picture health response, by World Health Organization-WHO).
Gender-based violence is a form of violence directed against a person because of gender (including gender identity/expression), that reflects and reinforces stereotypes and inequalities inside society, depriving women of their ability to enjoy fundamental freedoms.
As defined by the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 18 December 1979, gender-based violence is violence that is directed against a woman because she is a woman or that affects women disproportionately. It includes acts that inflict physical, mental or sexual harm orsuffering, threats of such acts, coercion and other deprivations of liberty (General Recommendation No. 19, paragraph 6).
The UN General Assembly defines violence against women as any act of gender-based violence that results in or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering towomen (General Assembly Resolution 48/104 Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women, 1993).
“Gender-based violence” is thus used interchangeably with “sexual violence” and “violence against women” as most gender-based violence is inflicted by men on women;
The Council of Europe estimates that 20 to 25% of all women in Europe have experienced physical acts of violence at least once during their adult lives. More than 10% of European women have suffered forced sexual violence, but the number of women who have suffered from other forms of gender-based violence is much higher.
Although it is difficult to distinguish between different types of violence since they are not mutually exclusive, gender-based violence includes:
- domestic violence, sexual harassment, rape,marital rape, sexual abuse/assault, sexual violence during conflict and harmful customary or traditional practices such as female genital mutilation, forced marriages and honour crimes;
- trafficking and forced prostitution and violations of human rights in armed conflict (in particular murder, systematic rape, sexual slavery and forced pregnancy);
- forced sterilisation, forced abortion, coercive use of contraceptives, female infanticide and prenatal sex selection.
Gender-Based Violence leads to serious short- and long-term physical, mental, sexual and reproductive health problems for survivors and for their children, and may end fatally.
While at EU level there is no a specific EU legislation aimed at preventing violence against women, the role of the European Union is important in order to to initiate and finance awareness raising, data collection and field actions to combat violence.
As you can read in the webpage of the DG Justice of the European Commission, the European Union:
- protects women and children from gender-based violence through legislation and practical measures on victims’ rights;
- develops measures to eliminate female genital mutilation;
- co-funds national governments’ awareness-raising activities;
- supports non-governmental organisations with transnational projects to combat violence against women, children and young people.
In addition, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) undertakes researches on gender-based violence in order to provide policy makers and experts at all levels with reliable and comparable data and resources which will enable them to prevent and combat gender-based violence.
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