Green Talking Heads

Tackling the ‘shadow pandemic’ of Gender Based Violence in Europe
#16

Terry Reintke

Green Member of the European Parliament

13July
2022
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Tackling the ‘shadow pandemic’ of Gender Based Violence in Europe

In this episode, Sarah Diedro is in conversation with Green MEP Terry Reintke. They discuss the Gender Based Violence Directive proposed by the European Commission, and how the Greens are fighting against the backlash on women's rights and gender equality in recent years.

Gender Based Violence in Europe: a lingering endemic problem!

Gender-based violence is still very much a real threat for women and LGBTI people across Europe. The Greens are committed to a safe, gender-based violence-free life for across the continent.  

Gender-based violence is the violence against women, girls and LGBTI people on the grounds of gender, gender identity, and gender expression or sex characteristics. It is one of the most systematic and widespread human rights violations in the world, claiming thousands of lives every year. Under the COVID-19 pandemic lies what the United Nations calls the ‘shadow pandemic’: a drastic increase of cases of gender-based physical, psychological and sexual violence across Europe.

Before the pandemic, 1 in 3 women experienced physical or sexual violence in the world, mostly due to their intimate partners. Data has shown an increase in calls to domestic violence helplines in many countries since the outbreak of COVID-19. 

This form of violence is endemic due to our patriarchal societies, since gender-based violence is rooted in discriminatory cultural beliefs and attitudes that perpetuate inequality and powerlessness, in particular of women and girls. We need to tackle this issue in a holistic way because gender equality is central to safeguarding human rights, upholding democracy and preserving the rule of law. More women are needed in positions of power to make headway on this issue and maintain peace. 

In Ukraine, rape is used as a weapon of war against Ukrainians. The United Nations calls it the ‘most hidden crime’ committed against Ukrainians, who are suffering from sexual violence at the hands of Russian soldiers.

International law already prohibits the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war, but it remains an all-too-common occurrence in conflicts. Ukrainians are also more at risk of other forms of gender-based violence since the start of the conflict due to the mass displacement it has caused, such as intimate partner violence, sexual exploitation and abuse, sexual harassment and economic abuse. Now, Ukrainian refugees are also facing Poland’s strict abortion laws.

Greens across Europe are fighting to end Gender Based Violence

Gender equality and ending of gender-based violence is a priority for all Green parties! As the European Greens, we are fighting for a feminist Europe.  

The Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament have pushed to ratify the Istanbul Convention, combats violence against women and the LGBTI community, and domestic violence. It determines that gender inequality is the basis of violence against women and criminalises acts such as forced marriage and forced abortion.   

Greens have also long pushed for a directive on gender-based violence – a Europe-wide law against gender-based violence – which has now finally been presented by the European Commission! It will support, protect and strengthen victims’ rights with a human rights, victim-centred and intersectional approach.

The Gender-Based Violence Directive includes: 

  • A basic common approach to consent becomes law: only yes means yes! 
  • Female genital mutilation becomes a crime in every EU country 
  • Measures to stop cyberviolence and ensure the right of women and LGBTQI+ people to be safe online 
  • Provisions on intersectionality, which considers the diversity and specific needs of more vulnerable groups of people 

Nevertheless, there remains areas of improvement, such as ensuring prevention, protection and reparation. Greens want a GBV Directive that protects the rights of gender diverse people. Gender-based violence doesn’t only affect cisgender women, but anyone who doesn’t conform to outdated gender norms. Trans women, trans feminine and non-binary people, oftentimes face even greater violence, therefore, EU policies must include and protect them. Greens also call to enlarge the scope of the definition of gender-based violence. 

Greens are calling for the EU needs to face the problem in a holistic way. We need to have a more inclusive police and justice system, as well as offer better training for policer officers and judicial personnel. We also need more reliable data collection to understand the full scope of the issue. Currently, there is a big divergence on how EU member states collect data, and in many countries, women do not denounce to official channels due to a lack of trust towards police or personnel. 

The Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament will continue to work hard to make sure the law is as inclusive and ambitious as possible. However, what is even more essential is that the implementation of the Directive is adequately enforced in the national legislation of EU member states.As we face increasing attacks on reproductive and women’s rights across the world, mobilisation will be key to keep and extend our rights to ensure gender equality and support survivors of gender-based violence.  

Follow the end of gender based violence campaign of the Greens/EFA Group in the European Parliament: https://www.greens-efa.eu/en/campaigns/gender-based-violence

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