Saturday, December 6, 2014

Violence against Women, in an European context

Written by Xaviera Medina, the founder of Mujeres Mundi, for the 16 Days Activism against Violence against Women.

Image from here
When we hear or read about violence against women, we tend to turn our attention to another subject, some thinking this happen to ‘others’, only amongst less educated communities but very rare to our neighborhoods and never, to us. The Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) of the European Union made public on March 5 the results of its survey on gender violence, the largest that has ever been done in the world. The study was conducted simultaneously among members of the European Union and it’s the first time that countries have comparative data for the type of violence against women in the various sectors of family, work, public and internet; the aftermath and how victims react to aggressions.
The survey is based on interviews with 42,000 women aged 18 to 74 years living in the EU, and the figures that they yield are surprising in their magnitude. According to the EU parliament, Izaskun Bilbao Barandica «One must understand that domestic violence goes beyond the private sphere so it is a matter of public interest. The survey figures are staggering; millions of women are suffering violence and discrimination–segmented in the report–from 12 years old. The challenge is to address gender violence with harmonization to approve European legislation to put all citizens on an equal footing. Knowing European figures, member states are able to establish a number of resources for victims of violence so that they do not have to suffer in this situation due to lack of support of public services ».
This survey shows that acts of VAW are not isolated events but a pattern of behavior damaging health of women and girls and limiting their participation into society. Violence against women is an extensive human rights abuse across Europe and one in three women reported some form of physical or sexual abuse since the age of 15 and 8% suffering abuse in the last 12 months, according to the EU survey.
The FRA EU survey gives a deep evidence of the problem as well as suggestions on how to solve it. The report ranks countries in order depending on the responses to the survey. In three countries often praised for their gender equality, high numbers of women report suffering violence since the age of 15 - in Denmark 52%, Finland 47%, and Sweden 46% - of women say they have suffered physical or sexual violence.
The study observed that the prevalence of exposure to violence is already high among young women aged from 15 years, suggesting that violence commonly starts early in women’s relationships. This means that act of violence starts early in women’s lives and would continue throughout the rest of their lives. Years of constant abuse certainly affects on woman’s mental and physical health and the health and stability of their families.
The publication of the FRA EU survey encourages women to speak up. This is very important among certain population where is not common to talk about personal experience of violence and where violence against women is not addressed as a mainstream policy issue because is considered as a private-life relate issue.
There is a need to understand economic and sociocultural factors fostering in a culture of violence against women. Social norms that support male authority and control over women must be challenged. Childhood exposure to violence must be reduced. Women’s economic and legal rights must be strengthened thereby eliminating gender inequalities There is an urgent need to positively engage men in initiations that confront them against VAW actions.
Some numbers
• One in 10 women has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 15, while one in 20 has been raped.
• One in 10 women has been stalked by a previous partner.
• Most violence is carried out by a current or former partner, with 22% of women in relationships reporting partner abuse.
• About one third (31%) who report being raped by a partner have been repeatedly raped, which the report defines as six or more times.
• Violence against women is one of the least reported crimes. Only 14% of women reported their most serious incident of partner violence to the police, while a similar percentage (13%) reported their most serious incident of non-partner violence.
• Just over one in 10 women experienced some form of sexual violence by an adult before they were 15.
Xaviera Medina de Albrand