European Women’s Lobby
Today the International Day to End Violence against Women we kick off the #16DaysofActivism!
Male violence against women and girls (VAWG) is as an international long-term pandemic and has been recognised a fundamental human rights violation whose impacts know no borders. It happens across Europe, affecting over 250 million women and girls, and yet due to a lack of European harmonisation of legislation, the remedies and prevention methods taken by governments are haphazard and a lottery for the women and girls experiencing violence.
Violence against women and girls threatens the security of half of the population in the EU; 1 in 3 of women in Europe are affected by physical and/or sexual violence and 1 in 2 women in the EU have experienced sexual harassment since the age of 15. Furthermore, according to the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), the economic cost for violence against women and girls is estimated to €289 Billion a year – prevention not only saves money, but it saves the lives of women and girls.
Both in the current context of the increase of male violence against women and girls in the Covid-19 crisis and also looking towards the future, we need concerted action and harmonisation at the EU level to ensure all women and girls are treated equally and violence is adequately prevented. EU legal action is needed to ensure equal rights between women and men in all EU member states during times of crisis, at least as much as in times of stability. The development of new types or new ways of perpetrating violence, especially in the digital sphere, has also significantly increased.
The European Women’s Lobby (EWL) calls on the European Commission to urgently move ahead with its commitments, laid out in the Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025 and in the 2021 State of the Union address by President Von Der Leyen, by adopting a comprehensive legislative framework, grounded in a horizontal Directive that holistically prevents, combats and eliminates all forms of male violence against women and girls, including sexual exploitation and online violence.
Ahead of the release of the European Commission’s proposal on 8 December 2021, the European Women’s Lobby has summarised its views and recommendations in a Paper calling on the European Commission to propose ambitious EU legal actions to fight violence against women and girls. This paper is based on a research project conducted by legal academic experts to evaluate the potential scope and legal basis for the Directive and is the result of consultation with our membership throughout the EU.
EWL’s key recommendations for the Directive include the adoption and enhancement of the gold standards of the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention – to date the most comprehensive international treaty on the topic. The Directive must address all forms of violence against women and girls, including work-related, public sphere online or offline, as well as to explicitly address sexual exploitation, and violence against women subject to intersecting forms of discrimination. EWL also underlines the need to ensure the harmonisation of existing EU legislative instruments relative to forms of violence against women and girls.
The paper takes the evolving environment into account and explores adding VAWG to the list of Eurocrimes, as well as other possible legal bases to prevent and combat some forms, if not all, of violence against women and girls.
This is a key moment in the long history of our movement’s fight against male VAWG, and it is crucial that all EU Institutions and Member States step up and play their part: together, we can disrupt the continuum of violence and create an EU where all women and girls live free from violence and the fear of it.
Today marks the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (VAW) and the start of the 16 days of activism to end VAW. On this occasion, we join the call of European Women’s Lobby to sign the Rise Up against violence petition supported by WeMove Europe. We are urging the EU and all European countries to make Europe a safe place for all women and girls.
SIGN THE PETITION HERE
Why is this important?
Male violence against women and girls is a long-term systemic issue across Europe. It is the most pervasive violation of women’s human rights, rooted in our societies’ culture of sexism. It has life-long implications for women’s physical and mental health.
This is an emergency situation threatening the security and dignity of women’s lives that precedes the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. The situation has even worsened during the COVID pandemic: lockdown and isolation measures have created an enabling environment for abusers and have lead to more incidents of physical, psychological and sexual violence.
During this pandemic crisis, women victims/survivors of male violence have had less access to help and protection. They have faced further isolation which can have serious mental consequences, especially for women facing multiple forms of discrimination.
There can be no peace and security while women fear for their safety in their homes, workplaces and in public spaces across Europe.
What can we do?
Good laws can change whole societies, and the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, known as the Istanbul Convention, is to date the most advanced legal framework to end violence against women and girls. It gives our states powerful binding tools to provide protection, prosecute perpetrators, and prevent different forms of violence that millions of women encounter every day 1.
The EU signed the Convention in 2017, but a signature is not enough – to be effective, the convention must be ratified and applied broadly. Unfortunately, for a few years now, the negotiations between the EU countries have been blocked.
Although all 27 EU Member States have signed the Istanbul Convention, six countries—Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Latvia and Lithuania—still haven’t ratified it. Moreover, in July 2020, the Polish government announced its intention to withdraw from the Convention. This is of great concern for all women in Europe who, now more than ever, need to see strong concerted EU action against male violence against women and girls.
We urge the EU and all European countries to adopt strong legislation to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls, including sexual exploitation and online violence, and to implement the standards of the Istanbul Convention.
We call on EU decision-makers to step up their efforts, in times of crisis and beyond, to ensure no women or girl is left behind and to disrupt the full continuum of violence against women and girls.
We also call on the EU to ensure adequate funding to address the emergency situation with regards to violence against women and girls, by ensuring that the Multi annual Financial Framework (MFF) and the New Generation EU fund provide adequate resources for women civil society organisations working on ending male VAWG and supporting its victims.
This year, despite the limitations, we will join the 16 days of activism once again to say loudly and firmly that women want to live a life free from violence and from the fear of it.
Raise your voice and join the almost 190,000 signers to our petition by signing it here.
In 1995, the UN’s 4th World Conference on women adopted Beijing Declaration, a resolution regarding the empowerment and advancement of women around the world. It set out strategic objectives to achieve gender equality in 12 areas, including the economy, violence against women, women in power and women and the environment.
In light of increasing global concerns of the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) a conference to mark the anniversary of the Beijing Declaration planned by European Parliament’s women’s rights committee for 5 March was cancelled, the 64th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW64) was significantly sized down to a one-day procedural meeting with Member States’ New York-based representatives. Although the political statement and multi-annual work programme has been approved at this meeting, women’s civil society organisations from around the world missed this unique moment to bring the collective voices of women and girls, in all their diversity, to the international political table.
Sadly so far, the UN and UN Member States have not been forthcoming to reassure us or propose other ways in which Women’s Civil Society voices will still be brought to the . This lack of commitment is part of the broader concern of the increasingly shrinking space of women’s civil society. The UN system and the Member States must take proactive steps to support feminist women’s organisations, to ensure they are included and financially supported within upcoming UN processes for 2020, including the Generation Equality Forums in Mexico and Paris, and the UN General Assembly in New York.
“In times like this, we must remain vigilant and stand strong in the face of uncertainty, adversity, and instability. We continue to recognize the incredible work of women’s activists and feminists everywhere, and their ongoing efforts to ensure a feminist world where women and girls live free, equal and dignified lives. While we are physically divided, we are united in our vision for a feminist world.” Gwendoline Lefebvre, President, European Women’s Lobby
Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8 March, EWL has published its report “25 years of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995-2020): THE TIME TO DELIVER IS NOW!” The report looks back at progress made in the EU in the last five years in relation to some of the BPfA’s critical areas of concern, highlights key actions of EWL and its members, and identifies remaining obstacles, to which we present our demands.
More on Parliament’s work regarding women’s rights:
Two of our board members attended the General Assembly for the European Women’s Lobby in Brussels 7-8 June: Annelies Pierrot – Bults, executive member of the assembly, Treasurer and Aisha Alshawaf as an Observer.
31 October marks the Equal Pay Day, the day from which women effectively work for free until the end of the year compared to their male counterparts. The gender pay gap currently stands at 16,2% in the European Union, exceeding 20% in countries like Estonia and Czech Republic. This adds to the gender inequalities women face across their life-cycle and affects each one of them differently, depending on their race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, level of education, location and other social or personal circumstances.
European Women’s Lobby and University Women of Europe are calling for increased efforts to end the gender pay gap. Even though the principle of equal pay for equal work was enshrined in the 1957 founding Treaty of the EU, European women continue to face discrimination in the job market and to earn less than men.
In addition, because women are paid less, they contribute less to their pensions and this translates into a wide pension gap and higher risk of poverty for older women. Their pension income is negatively influenced both by the gender pay gap and by the time spent out of the labor-market to care for children and other dependent family members, together with women’s over representation in part-time work and in low paid sectors of the economy.
To effectively tackle the gender pay gap, it is necessary to address its multiple and complex root causes, starting from the lack of high quality, accessible and affordable care services. As we have seen, women are penalized throughout their lives for the things they do to keep society functioning, that is care responsibilities. There are a number of important mechanisms already in place or in the pipe-line at the EU-level to lift this weight from women’s shoulders, and the EU Institutions need to demonstrate political will in putting them to use without delay.
One such measure is the so-called “Work-life Balance Directive”, for which the Council agreed its negotiating position (general approach) in June. The Proposal entails the strengthening of parental leave by making the 2 months period non-transferable, the introduction of a carers’ leave and the extension of flexible working arrangement for carers. While the scope of these measures has been sensibly reduced in comparison with the original Commission’s proposal, their adoption would enable women to retain their economic independence while having children and to return swiftly to payed work.
Therefore, we call for a swift adoption of the Proposal for a Directive on Work-Life Balance, followed by enforcement and monitoring. While it is not a magic wand, we believe that this would be a first step towards closing the gender pay gap and ensuring a more equal society for everybody.
For More Information
EIGE’s gender equality factsheets based on the results of EIGE’s Gender Equality Index 2017.
European Women’s Forum is a dynamic five days of feminist activities. The events of the week, from EWL General Assembly to the public street event “Loud and united to end violence against women and girls” , will be a chance to come together and celebrate the success of the European’s Women’s Movement.
General Assembly agenda and documents
This year all documents for EWL General Assembly will ONLY be available through EWL members’ forum, the Living Room (and not sent as attachments). The draft agenda, the applications for EWL candidate Board Members, all the documents for the GA are available on the agenda page, except for the 2017 Emergency Motions paper which will be made available this week.
Public event and street action “Loud and United” on 8 June, followed by EWL members’ dinner
This year, the European Women’s Lobby is marking the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the EWL Observatory on violence against women and girls (VAWG). The Observatory is a unique structure that brings together more than 30 experts, professionals, women’s rights defenders, and front-line NGOs activists, from all over Europe. On 11 May 2017, the EU publicly declared its intention to sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention, the first legally binding treaty in Europe that criminalises different forms of violence against women. With this declaration, the EU sends the world a message about its commitment to fighting the violation of women’s rights.
On 8 June, EWL wants to give visibility from Belgium and around Europe to their tireless work and achievements at the forefront of the fight against VAWG.
A conference with the EWL Observatory on violence against women and girls and globally recognised feminist activist, Gloria Steinem, takes place on 8 June from 14.00 to 16.30, followed by a street demonstration starting at 17:00, Mont des Arts, Place de l’Albertine, 1000 Brussels (Facebook event : https://www.facebook.com/events/1967859493432979/)
All the information you need about the event including the agenda is also available for EWL members on the Living Room: https://womenlobbyforum.org/ viewtopic.php?f=57&t=93
After the demonstration, EWL Members are then getting together with Gloria Steinem for dinner at Brasserie de la Presse from 18.30.
Find the full agenda and other information on EWL website: www.womenlobby.org/Gloria-Steinem-in-Brussels-8-June-2017
You might want to sign and share with your networks a call on to a CSO 6th scenario for the Future of Europe from the SDGWatch Europe and Friends of the Earth:
Like every year, the European Women’s Lobby (EWL) will take part to the 61st session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (13-24 March). EWL membership is very active during CSW61, organising side events and influencing the negotiations on the Conclusions which should be adopted by the UN member states at the end of the session.
This year’s priority theme is “Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work” and the emerging issue is ’The empowerment of Indigenous women”. Ahead of CSW61, the EWL had sent, together with its members, a joint statement highlighting the situation of women domestic workers. We have also made comments on the zero draft of the conclusions.
During CSW, the EWL is organising two events :
- A side event co-organised with Belgium and Iceland, on “The Nordic Model on prostitution: a key step to ensure girls’ and young women’s economic empowerment”, on Wednesday 15 March, 8.15-9.30am, in conference room 8 of the UN.
- A parallel event co-sponsored by NAWO Youth, Unizon, Wagggs, the European YWCA and Rights4Girls, on “#HerFuture: Challenges & opportunities for girls’ and young women’s economic empowerment”, on Wednesday 15 March, 2.30-4pm, at the Salvation Army (downstairs).
Other EWL members’ events:
- NAWO (UK) organises a series of events, to be soon on their dedicated webpage.
- The Swedish Women’s Lobby organises an event on “Underpaid and Undervalued – What a Way to Make a Living“ on Tuesday 14 March, 6.15-7.45pm
- “Diverse, Resilient and Viable – Empowering Women through the G20“ with the National Council of German Women‘s Organizations, on Monday 13 March, 1.15-2.30pm
- “Women’s Economic Empowerment in Lusophone Countries“ organised by the Portuguese Platform for Women’s Rights, 16 March, 2.30-4pm, Armenian Center
EWL Secretariat members will also be speaking at:
- “A year of focused actions to combat violence against women and girls“, an event of the European Commission, on Wednesday 15 March, 1.15-2.30pm, Un conference room 2
- “Trading on the Female Body“ on Tuesday 14 March, 1-3pm
* “Supporting feminist movement building for Planet 50-50 by 2030“ on Friday 17 March, 5-8pm
- “Women Doctors: Economic Empowerment and Social Determinants of Health”, organised by MWIA, Wednesday 15 March, 12.30-2pm, Hardin room Church Center
EWL will take part to the EU-briefing, and will co-facilitate the meetings of the caucus for Europe and North America:
- Wednesday 15 March, 6.15-7.45pm, Boss room Church Center
- Monday 20 March, 6.15-7.45pm, 2nd floor Church Center
The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Ms. Dubravka Šimonović took up function as Special Rapporteur on 1 August 2015 and intends to, inter alia, focus on the legal and policy frameworks of her mandate and the international human rights mechanisms to discuss the gap in incorporating and implementing the international and regional standards related to violence against women.The Special Rapporteur considers that the discussion on the adequacy of the international legal framework on violence against women initiated by the former mandate holder should continue and she wishes to secure views from different stakeholders, including States, National Human Rights Institutions, Non-governmental organizations, as well as members of academia.She has launched a consultation on the gap of transposing and implementing international and regional standards on violence against women.Taking into consideration the important role that different stakeholders play in reinforcing universal human rights standards, she would be very interested to receive input and views on the following questions:1. Do you consider that there is a need for a separate legally binding treaty on violence against women with its separate monitoring body?2. Do you consider that there is an incorporation gap of the international or regional human rights norms and standards?3. Do you believe that there is a lack of implementation of the international and regional legislation into the domestic law?4. Do you think that there is a fragmentation of policies and legislation to address gender-based violence?5. Could you also provide your views on measures needed to address this normative and implementation gap and to accelerate prevention and elimination of violence against women?European Women’s Lobby is planning to send a EWL Contribution and, as it is an important consultation, we would like to ask to send your input and views on the questions asked by the UN Special Rapporteur. EWL preliminary comments/clarifications are the following ones:Q1: The EWL does not have a specific position on this issue specific point yet, so it will be very interesting to have your views on this. It can be interesting to highlight the positive aspects of the Istanbul Convention but also what it is missing.Q2: By incorporation gap, we understand if international or regional human rights norms and standards have been signed/ratified. We would appreciate very much if you can give examples of international/regional standards have not been signed/ratified or if there have been major reservations.Q3: By lack of implementation of the international understand into the domestic law we understand gaps in the transposition of the international/regional legislation into the domestic law. Again, it will be great if you can give examples of gaps in transposition into legislation and also gaps in implementation.Q4: We will push for the use of the term “violence against women” in all the contribution. EWL will argue that there is fragmentation of policies and legislation and different levels of protection of women in Europe.Q5: Your ideas will be very welcomed, and it would be good to link this reply to the reply given to the first question.
We will send you back the final EWL Contribution by the 28th of September so that you can use it as well if you want to send your own contributions on behalf of your organisations. The final deadline for the UN to receive the contributions is the 1st of October.Thank you very much in advance,many regards from the Board,Roxana Elena PetrescuSecretary General