International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

Labour Party

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Violence Against Women is a global problem. It is a global problem which is a symptom of discrimination against women, but it does not discriminate between them.

Violence against women affects women from all walks of life, from all countries, from all religions and at all ages. In the UK alone more than 40% of women have experienced some form of violence against them, violence that has been carried out purely on the basis that they are women.

It can take the form of domestic violence, rape and sexual violence, sexual harassment, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, crimes in the name of “honour”, trafficking and sexual exploitation.

In the European Parliament  over the last week there have been several discussions about violence against women. In part this is a result of the European Commission’s seemingly regressive attitude towards tackling the problem which I spoke about here on Wednesday.

I am also still  incredibly worried about the repercussions of the EU no longer having a dedicated programme to combat violence against women following the Commission’s proposals to cut the Daphne Programme and divide its functions between two larger umbrella programmes. I recently blogged about this.

The programme, which has been running since 1997, provides vital support for organisations that work to prevent violence against women, children and other vulnerable people. Daphne has never been favoured by great amounts of funding from the Commission, but it has assisted over 500 projects since it was created in 1997. I speak about some of the projects it has supported here.

But there is much more to the Daphne programme than the funding it provides. It represents the united voice of Europe in saying that violence against women and children is not acceptable, that this kind of violence will not be tolerated and that ending violence is on the European agenda.  

In getting rid of the Daphne programme and in ignoring the almost unanimous call for an EU wide Directive from the European Parliament, what message is the Commission sending out to perpetrators of violence against women and children?

The basic cause of violence against women is inequality. I’m not denying progress has been made. This is seen in the number of girls in higher education, the shifting attitudes towards more family friendly flexible working and the anger at the way that the Tory cuts are affecting women so disproportionately.

Yet we still have a long way to go. The gender pay gap in Europe is 17%, the glass ceiling is still alive and well and there is noweher near adequate and affordable childcare. Violence against women is an extreme example of the discrimination women still face. The EU’s Daphne Programme played an important role in combatting anti-female abuse and we muct do everything we can to fight for its survival. It’s shameful indeed that the current round of public expenditure cuts are falling on such importnat work. We must all fight for Daphne and for those women who so badly need its services.