Parliament’s buildings in Brussels were lit up in orange on 25 November to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Violence against women and girls is one of the most serious human rights issues in Europe and across the world. One in three women in the EU have experienced physical or sexual violence since the age of 15, 75% of women professionals or those in top management have been subjected to sexual harassment, while one in ten women have experienced sexual harassment or stalking by means of new forms of technology. In 2015, roughly 215,000 violent sexual crimes were recorded by police in the European Union.
On Saturday 25 November, Parliament’s buildings in Brussels were lit up in orange as part of the Orange the World initiative. The colour orange symbolises a brighter future free from violence against women and girls.
Last week, ahead of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, Parliament’s women’s rights committee met national parliamentarians to debate the ratification and monitoring of the Council of Europe’s Istanbul Convention criminalising gender violence.
The Convention is the most comprehensive international treaty and the first legally binding instrument that criminalises gender-based violence. It also addresses violence against women through measures aimed at preventing violence, protecting and supporting its victims, and prosecuting the perpetrators.
Opening last week’s debate Vilija Blinkevičiūtė, chair of the women’s rights committee, said: “Parliament considers joining the convention to be a very important step.”
Blandine Mollard, a research officer at the European Institute for Gender Equality, talked about the need to speak openly: “Almost one in two victims in the EU have not disclosed their experience of violence to anyone.”
Addressing Tuesday’s meeting, Virginija Langbakk, director of the European Institute for Gender Equality, underlined the need for political commitment: “The #MeToo campaign has shown that if a survey were carried out today, the disclosure level would be much higher.”
Jacqui Hunt, director of Equality Now’s Europe branch, noted, “We need to focus on the perpetrators but not place women in a subordinate position”.
In recent weeks, revelations of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, along with the #MeToo campaign online, have helped to raise awareness of a very difficult issue that is all too frequent, but remains under-reported. Last month, MEPs debated the policies in place as well as the measures that should be taken by the EU to tackle the problem.