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Brussels, 6 March 2009

International Women’s Day – The Commission’s campaign to stop violence against women

On the occasion of International Women’s Day on 8 March 2009, Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot, responsible for Justice, Freedom and Security, confirmed the Commission’s strong commitment to preventing violence against women.

Vice-President Barrot said that “despite the progress achieved in equality between the sexes and increased opportunities for women in professional and private life, it is nevertheless sadly true that women all over the world still suffer serious violations of their fundamental rights through acts of violence, exploitation and abuse.”

“The problem is still widely underestimated,” he said, and referred to recent studies on violence against women that give alarming statistics for the number of women victims of violence in Europe. “For example, the Council of Europe estimates that between 20 and 25% of women in Europe suffer acts of physical violence at least once in their adult lives, and more than 10% are victims of sexual violence.” He went on to say that “the prevalence of violence against women that these figures show is unacceptable. Apart from the human suffering it causes, such violence also has serious social and financial consequences for our society, with high costs for the health sector, social services, the police and judiciary and for the labour market.”

Violence against women deprives them of their fundamental freedoms and is a major obstacle to equality between the sexes. The European Commission is therefore determined to use its political, legislative and financial powers and resources to help to eradicate violence against women in Europe and elsewhere. In practical terms, the Commission is making financial aid under the Daphne III programme available to NGO partnerships and networks and to local public bodies in Europe working to eradicate violence against women, young people and children.

The Commission is also currently looking at European legislation on trafficking in humans[1]. Vice-President Barrot said: “we recognise that women and girls are still the most targeted group and make up the majority of victims. Indeed, women and girls are particularly vulnerable to trafficking because of the discrimination against them, the lack of employment opportunities and domestic violence. The promotion of women’s rights therefore plays a crucial role in preventing trafficking.” The proposal for a new framework decision on trafficking will be based on respect for human rights and will increase the level of protection and assistance for victims.

[1] Council Framework Decision 2002/629/JHA of 19 July 2002 on combating trafficking in human beings.

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