The new directive will pay special attention to prevention, support and protection measures, and oblige member states to ensure that violence by an intimate partner is a decisive factor when examining custody cases
8 March 2022, 6:52am
Women activists call for more urgency in society when to stamp out gender-based violence, in a demonstration in Valletta
Those of us doing in European politics know how difficult it is to move forward, to bring together 27 member states. It is even more difficult in a political system still dominated by patriarchal structures, with latent misogynist tics which emerge now and then.
That is why we should not be shocked by Sofagate-type scenes, where the Commission President is ignored and patronised by foreign leaders. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
Unequal treatment is the daily reality for most women, and even though we are improving in areas like equal wage or breaking companies’ boards glass ceiling, its cruellest/most brutal form is probably the most hidden, and therefore the hardest to eradicate: gender-based violence.
Over the last years, we have made important achievements for equality thanks to the nagging insistence of progressive forces. We now have women heading the Commission, the Parliament and the European Central Bank; a gender-balanced college of Commissioners, and compulsory quotas for women on boards. However, we have some crucial unfinished business, a duty towards the most vulnerable women, those who are victims of violence only because they are women.
Every day 7 women die in the EU victims of gender-based violence, usually by their partners. Between 12% and 15% of women live in hell on a daily basis. They don’t make front pages, and they need help to escape that circle of despair. They need psychological, financial and judicial support.
For years, Socialists and Democrats have been calling for a European strategy against gender-based violence which includes a binding instrument. This is why when our political group in the European Parliament backed the working programme of Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, we demanded a legislative proposal to end this scourge. More than two years have passed, and at last the Commission announced that next 8th March it will present a directive to prevent and fight violence against women and domestic violence.
Due to the opposition of some governments in the Council, we have not been able to include gender-based violence as a crime in article 83 of the Treaty. Violence against women is a felony/serious offense, and it should be considered as such, as it already happens with human trafficking and sexual exploitation of women and children. The new directive will pay special attention to prevention, support and protection measures. It should also oblige member states to ensure that violence by an intimate partner is a decisive factor when examining custody cases.
This directive is one more element in a global strategy in need of many other legal instruments, as well as other coordinated actions aimed at changing spirits/mentalities, exposing the injustice and anachronism of subordinating half of the world population, wasting their talent and denigrating their dignity. We must tackle sexual harassment in new spheres, from sports – where we still see some outdated behaviours unacceptable in the 21st century – to the internet and new technologies, where women have 27 more chances than men to face harassment.
This year on 8th March we take one more step, with the European directive, but we still have a long way to go in Europe and in the world. We don’t forget Afghan women, with whose representatives I met recently in Brussels and I promised we would keep our support. Neither do we forget girls who are victims of genital mutilation or early arranged marriages. In these days, our thoughts are especially with women in war zone, and our hearts both with those Ukrainian women who decided to remain and fight for their country and those who escaped, many with small children or elderly, trying to find a safe refuge.
Iratxe García Pérez, Is president of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament
Former Prime Minister and Head of the Maltese S&D Labour Party Delegation to the European Parliament Alfred Sant has co-signed Iratxe Garcia Pérez’s statement