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Stop violence against women

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Ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November, the European Commission and High Representative Federica Mogherini issued the following statement:

Violence against women and girls is violence against the whole humankind, and should have no place in Europe or elsewhere in the world. But we all know that despite our commitment, we are still far from winning this challenge.

Violence against women happens anywhere, there is no safe place, not even at home. On the contrary. Woman are targeted at home as well as in their workplace, in schools and universities, on the street, in displacement and migration, and increasingly online through cyber violence and hate speech.

The scale of the problem stays alarming: One in three women in Europe has experienced physical and/or sexual violence. Nearly all victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation within the EU are women and girls.

In developing countries, one in every three girls is married before reaching the age of 18. There are at least 200 million women and girls who have undergone female genital mutilation, which is still performed in around 30 countries.

It is our responsibility as the EU and international community, to keep our commitment to preventing, openly rejecting and condemning all acts of violence against women and girls.

It is our duty also to support and protect the victims by creating a safe environment for them to report the crimes committed against them.

The EU is committed to keep working tirelessly with our partners to strengthen legal frameworks and institutions, supporting development and education, improving services for survivors, addressing the root causes of violence, promoting women empowerment.

But ending violence against women and girls requires a firm commitment not only at institutional level. It requires a broad involvement of international organisations, of NGOs, of the civil society at large. And most of all of men.

So our goal stays clear: eliminate violence against women and girls. The EU will stay at the forefront of this international mobilisation to defend the rights of every woman and every girl to live free and safe. We do it for our future and for our present because women are the pillar of just, open, developed and democratic societies, and nothing should deprive them of the freedom to play their role freely and safely.”

The European Union has put substantial measures in place to end such violence, including:

  • The EU’s Victims’ Rights Directive ensures more and better rights for victims of crimes and specialised support for victims of sexual or gender–based violence.
  • The Commission is in the process of concluding the EU accession to the Istanbul Convention of the Council of Europe on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
  • The Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme helps tackle violence against women and children through funding grassroots projects focusing on prevention of gender-based violence, supporting victims and women and girls at risk, training of professionals and capacity building of services.

The EU is also tackling violence against women outside of the EU:

  • Over the last two years, we have supported more than 1.5 million women and girls by providing services for protection and care related to female genital mutilation. Prevention efforts are having a positive impact: some 3,000 communities, representing 8.5 million people, have publicly announced that they are abandoning this practice.
  • On child marriage, the EU has undertaken a series of initiatives designed to change attitudes and practices regarding girls’ rights, reaching over 1.6 million people.

Background

Violence against women and girls is a widespread and devastating human rights violation that takes place across the globe. WHO estimates that one third of women and girls worldwide experience violence at some point in their lives. The numbers may only be the tip of the iceberg, as this type of violence remains largely unreported due to the silence, stigma and shame surrounding it. As a result, many perpetrators remain unpunished.

In addition to the initiatives mentioned, the EU has put in place the Victims’ Rights Directive, which ensures more and better rights to victims of all crimes. Under these rules, the most vulnerable victims such as victims of sexual violence, victims of gender–based violence and victims of violence in close relations, have access to specialised support services. Such support includes access to shelters for victims in need of a safe place and targeted and integrated support including trauma support and counselling. The European Commission is closely monitoring the implementation of this Directive in the Member States and has taken action against those Member States who have not fully or correctly transposed EU rules.

Furthermore, the EU recognises trafficking in human beings as violence against women and girls, and this dimension continues to be a focus of key actions in the context of the EU legal and policy framework, under the horizontal mandate of the EU anti-trafficking Coordinator (Overview 2012-2016 and 2017-2018).

Moreover, today, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) is publishing a new risk assessment guide for the police, to help law enforcement authorities and health sectors to better work together to prevent repeated acts of intimate partner violence and save lives.

As a priority in its External Action, the European Commission is working on concluding the EU accession to the Council of Europe’s Convention on preventing and combatting violence against women and domestic violence, the first instrument in Europe to set legally binding standards to prevent violence against women and domestic violence, protect its victims and punish perpetrators. It is the obligation of the State to fully address this type of violence in all its forms and to take the necessary measures of prevention, protection and prosecution. In partnership with the United Nations, the EU launched the Spotlight Initiative, a global, multi-year initiative focused on eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls. With an unprecedented initial investment of €500 million, we are protecting and giving voice to those women and girls who have been silenced by their societies and now want to speak up. During 2017 and 2018, it is estimated that the EU allocated more than €62 million in humanitarian aid for the prevention of and response to sexual and gender-based violence worldwide under its protection and health programming.

Finally, the European Commission will be lighting up its headquarters in Brussels, the Berlaymont building, in orange on the night of Monday 25 November to show its support for combatting violence against women.

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Human Rights

Russian mining giant builds new settlement for indigenous peoples

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The FPIC procedure, first used in Russia by the Norilsk Nickel mining company, has entered a new stage. A second round of consultations with residents of the Arctic workers’ village of Tukhard (in the Taimyr Dolgano-Nenets District of the Krasnoyarsk Territory) took place. The company reported in a press release.

In October 2021, it was reported that FPIC procedure was started.

At the gathering of residents in the framework of the second round, the issues of consent of the residents of the village to the procedure for obtaining FPIC, as well as the formation of a body for making collective decisions of the residents of Tukhard (Council of Representatives) were brought up. The gathering was attended by 78 residents of the village and tundra reindeer herders.

Tukhard was established as a temporary residence for shift workers producing gas in the area in 1970th, and the development of the village did not provide for the creation of any infrastructure. Due to the lack of possible infrastructure development, taking care of the quality of life, safety and health, the company operating in this region – Norilsk Nickel, offered residents the opportunity to choose a better option for life.

Independent international experts invited by the organizer of the procedure, the Interregional Public Organization for the Protection of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples “KMNSOYUZ”, took part in the meetings with residents. Among them are Alexey Tsykarev, a member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Corporate Advisor to the World Bank on Indigenous Issues, author of the current World Bank policies on indigenous peoples’ rights Navin K. Rai, lawyers in the field of protecting the rights of indigenous peoples of the Russian Federation Mikhail Todyshev and Antonina Gorbunova. The procedure was advised by the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Professor James Anaya and other experts.

Dr. Navin Rai, who is visiting the Taimyr Peninsula as an Independent Expert for drafting the Indigenous Peoples Policy, noted that “the indigenous peoples of Tukhard, including those families who practice reindeer herding in the tundra, are currently negotiating with the Norilsk Nickel Company the specific parameters for the proposed physical relocation.” He underlined that “the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) requires that these indigenous peoples have the right to say “no.” However, the result of the negotiations may result in an outcome that is acceptable to both the indigenous peoples and the Company.”

During the gathering, a Council of representatives of the inhabitants of the village of Tukhard was formed, consisting of 7 people. It included both those who in the future wish to move to other settlements, and those who wish to continue their life in Tukhard. The Council also includes reindeer herders who live on a permanent basis in the tundra. Taking into account the interests of reindeer herders who are registered in Tukhard but do not have a permanent place of residence in the village is one of the main requirements of international experts.

The next round of FPIC negotiations is expected in the first quarter of 2022.

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Human Rights

Violence against refugee women surged in 2020

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One in five refugee or internally displaced women have faced sexual violence, and the situation continues to worsen globally, the UN refugee agency, (UNHCR), said on Thursday.

On the 30th anniversary of the campaign for 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, the UN agency said that there’s been a global surge in domestic violence, child marriages, trafficking, sexual exploitation and abuse since March.

“A lethal mix of confinement, deepening poverty and economic duress is unleashing a renewed wave of violence against refugee, displaced and stateless women and girls”, UNHCR said in a statement.

Grassroots solutions

To tackle the crisis, the UN agency has called for funding to be scaled up for grassroots projects that focus on prevention and helping victims of gender-based violence.

These include the Myanmar Ethnic Women(’s) Refugee Organization where refugee women have joined forces to overcome abuse, reinforcing their role as strong protectors of their families and communities.

For victim Deborah, who lives in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, violence against women at home was considered a family problem.

“I felt ashamed to share my experience with other people,” she said. “I was afraid they would say it was my fault.”

Through her work with the community-based organization, Deborah met other women suffering in silence, and when she was invited to help devise and lead a project to support refugee women affected by gender-based violence (GBV), she accepted.

COVID-19 link

UNHCR highlighted that the need for such local, refugee-led projects has become even greater during the COVID-19 pandemic, as lockdowns have taken away refugees’ often precarious livelihoods, heightening tensions in households and making it more difficult for international agencies to deliver support services.

UNHCR issued the alert after recording increases in gender-based violence in at least 27 countries.

In the Central African Republic it warned that one gender-based violence incident is recorded every hour.

And in Colombia, similar incidents affecting Venezuelan refugees and migrants have increased by 40 per cent over the first three- quarters of the year, the agency noted.

The financial stress of COVID-19 and a lack of food in households during the pandemic has put women at greater risk from violence at the hands of their partners, UNHCR reported.

This is the case on the Thai-Myanmar border, where refugee women who were already running support services and safe houses for survivors of gender-based violence asked the UN agency for funding, to provide food to families who had lost work owing to the pandemic’s economic impact.  

Reaffirming its own commitment to addressing gender-based violence across its operations, UNHCR launched an institution-wide policy on GBV prevention, risk mitigation and response, in October.

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Human Rights

Spotlight Initiative combats gender-based violence during COVID-19 pandemic

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Young girls campaign to end violence against women and girls in El Salvador. © UNICEF

Despite COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions, some 650,000 women and girls were provided with gender-based violence services through a joint UN and European Union (EU) programme working to stamp out what is arguably one of the most prevalent human rights violations. 

This is just one of the achievements detailed in the Spotlight Initiative’s impact report for 2020-21, launched in New York on Friday. 

Rising to the challenge details how the partners rapidly adjusted programmes during the global crisis to address the shadow pandemic of violence against women and girls. 

COVID-19 continues to exacerbate violence against women and girls in a context of sustained and new backlash against women’s rights globally,” said Sima Bahous Executive Director of UN Women, which supports governments in achieving gender equality. 

“Now more than ever we need concentrated action to protect the gains made and to guard against reversals.” 

Grassroots support 

The Spotlight Initiative is the world’s largest targeted effort to end all forms of violence against women and girls. 

In addition to scaling up services during the pandemic, it assisted civil society organizations to swiftly adapt to the changing environment and to strengthen online services, such as telecounselling and hotlines. 

Funds were also shifted to support more local and grassroots organizations, with $146 million allocated to date.   

Targeting men and boys 

Additionally, some 880,000 men and boys were educated on positive masculinity, respectful family relationships, non-violent conflict resolution and parenting. 

Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), reported on some of the activities across the globe.  

“In Malawi, we are working with community organizations and media partners to raise awareness among educators, young people, and especially boys. These efforts are helping to increase reporting and providing girls and women with faster and more effective support,” she said. 

Promoting stronger laws 

Violence against women and girls, which exists in all societies, is often compounded by other humanitarian crises and has only intensified during the pandemic. 

Achim Steiner, head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), stated that although strong strategies and legal frameworks do not guarantee the end of gender-based violence, “they are essential to making a dent in this global scourge.”  

For example, the Spotlight Initiative has helped 17 Latin American countries to fully incorporate femicide in their penal codes, and to add clauses that severely punish perpetrators. 

“We have also worked with thousands of parliamentarians, for instance through collaborating with UN Women, in setting up a COVID-19 global response gender tracker to try and allow legislators and policy makers to immediately draw, in the midst of the pandemic, on best practices and the ability to actually act on violence against women, and working with well over 1,000 local and grassroots women’s organizations,” he said. 

Taking it forward 

To build on achievements so far, the EU and UN have decided to develop a Spotlight Global Platform which combines a knowledge hub, community of practice and “advocacy instrument” grounded in the practical experience gained through the initiative. 

Olaf Skoog, Ambassador of the EU Delegation, said even though incidences of violence against women and girls worldwide have been devastating, the partnership has yielded impressive results. 

“We always say that if we are to make a better world, it has to start at home. And here at the UN, we are busy on a daily basis trying to resolve the major conflicts of the world.  But part of that has to be that we are very effective fighting the violence in our own societies,” he said. “And no society is free of this plight.”

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