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EU guidelines on violence against women and girls

These guidelines set out the European Union’s (EU) operational objectives and intervention tools for its external action on combating violence against women and girls, including all forms of discrimination directed at them.

ACT

EU guidelines on violence against women and girls and combating all forms of discrimination against them . General Affairs Council of 8 December 2008 [Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

Violence against women and girls is a worldwide, institutionalised phenomenon, which may vary depending on a society’s social, economic, cultural and political context. It has serious consequences for the physical and mental health of victims, as well as to societal development in general. It mainly results from economic and power inequalities between sexes, customs, traditions, religious values, political instability and armed conflict.

The term “violence against women” refers to “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or private life”.

With the adoption of these guidelines, the European Union (EU) is making a political and long-term commitment to the issue of women’s rights. Its action in combating violence against women focuses on three interrelated aims:

  • preventing violence;
  • protecting and supporting victims;
  • prosecuting perpetrators.

To this end, the guidelines provide the following operational objectives:

  • promoting gender equality and combating discrimination against women, particularly in the private sphere and in legislation and public policies;
  • gathering data and developing indicators on violence against women, to which end the EU will identify appropriate tools and support EU countries’ data collection efforts;
  • designing effective and coordinated strategies that are applied at all levels and in all sectors of society to prevent violence and protect victims;
  • combating the impunity of perpetrators by ensuring that acts of violence against women are punishable by law, and taking measures to facilitate victims’ access to justice.

EU intervention tools

The EU intervention tools must necessarily allow all relevant actors to become involved. They conform to the operational objectives and are applied complimentarily with other human rights guidelines, such as those on children’s rights and on human rights defenders.

Under the general approaches, the issue of violence against women and girls, and the forms of discrimination that result in such violence, is introduced in all relations with non-EU countries and regional organisations. The main concerns relate to the compliance of national legal frameworks with international standards and commitments, as well as to the proper application and follow-up of the latter. In this context, the EU will also further encourage the ratification of relevant conventions and protocols, namely the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

The specific additional measures to combat violence against women include:

  • promoting the role of the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women in situations of widespread and unpunished violence and ensuring that his/her recommendations are followed-up;
  • monitoring the proceedings of cases of violence against women and girls;
  • supporting women’s rights and female human rights defenders;
  • supporting awareness-raising campaigns and policies.

In individual cases of exceptional gravity, for example where violence is perpetrated or tolerated by a country contrary to its international commitments, the EU may also take specific measures.

Violence against women and discrimination that results in such violence are incorporated in the EU’s specific dialogues on human rights and, where necessary, in its other policy dialogues. This includes following-up recommendations of international and regional mechanisms related to women’s rights. The EU will also continue to promote internationally the prevention of violence against women, mainly within the UN.

The Heads of EU Missions have the obligation to include in their human rights reports information on the respect of women’s fundamental rights. EU special representatives and envoys, whose mandates also include women’s rights, are likewise responsible for reporting on the topic.

In its bilateral and multilateral cooperation to defend human rights, the EU will give priority to combating violence against women and girls. Civil society, including the legal and educational fields, will be closely involved. The emphasis will be on cooperation that takes place within the framework of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights. The aim of this cooperation is to support civil society programmes, focusing on:

  • promoting access to justice and care services;
  • preventing violence;
  • strengthening the capacities of national administrations, relevant civil society organisations and other stakeholders involved in dealing with violence against women, its causes and consequences.

This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.

Last updated: 24.09.2010
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