Violence against women ‘extensive’ across European, says report

Survey of 28 member states in EU reveals abuse on large scale, much of it unreported

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 8:55pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 8:55pm


Violence against women is "an extensive human rights abuse" across Europe with one in three women reporting some form of physical or sexual abuse since the age of 15 and 8 per cent suffering abuse in the last 12 months, according to the largest survey of its kind on the issue.

The survey, based on interviews with 42,000 women across 28 EU member states, found extensive abuse across the continent, which typically goes unreported and undetected by the authorities.

Morten Kjaerum, director of FRA, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, which was responsible for the survey, said: "Violence against women, and specifically gender-based violence that disproportionately affects women, is an extensive human rights abuse that the EU cannot afford to overlook."

The FRA study provides ample evidence of the size of the problem, as well as suggestions on how to fix it.

In a foreword to the report, Kjaerum calls for all member states to sign and ratify the Council of Europe Istanbul Convention, which demands more protection for women, and urges action from private and public organisations.

"Action to combat violence against women needs to come from different quarters - employers, health professionals and internet service providers," it says.

The report ranks countries in order depending on the responses to the survey. In three countries often praised for their gender equality, high numbers of women report suffering violence since the age of 15: in Denmark 52 per cent, Finland 47 per cent and Sweden 46 per cent of women say they have suffered physical or sexual violence.

The UK reports the joint fifth highest incidence of physical and sexual violence (44 per cent), whereas women in Poland report the lowest at 19 per cent.

However, campaigners to end violence against women advised caution in reporting country-wide differences, given different levels of awareness of what constitutes abuse.

Calling for a concerted effort to combat violence, Kjaerum writes: "With ... the necessary follow-up by politicians, women who have been victims of violence can be encouraged to speak up. This is crucial in those countries ... where it is not yet widespread to openly talk about personal experiences of violence."

The report's authors also urge special preventive and awareness programmes for young women who are "particularly vulnerable to victimisation".

They also recommend a focus on men, who "need to be positively engaged in initiations that confront how some men use violence against women".