Women are particularly affected by negative consequences of crises. The past two years of the pandemic resulted in an increase of physical and psychological violence against women in particular. As part of the EU Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025, the Commission has now presented a proposal to combat violence against women.
International Women’s Day on 8 March 2022 was overshadowed by the Russian attack on Ukraine, because women are additionally affected by gender-specific violence in wars and armed conflicts. Women’s rights organisations warned against human trafficking, against rapes and forced prostitution, which are a serious threat to fleeing women. However, the problem of gender specific violence is not only limited to areas of conflict, the pandemic too worsened the situation of women in many areas. Lockdowns and curfews created an environment conducive to physical, psychological, sexual and economic violence against woman and girls and made it difficult for victims to access psychiatric services. A new Eurobarometer survey shows that 77 % of women in the EU think that the pandemic led to an increase of physical and psychological violence against women in their country, which is also exacerbated by the higher risk of losing job and income. To ensure that the negative consequences do not survive the pandemic, the Commission presented a proposal on EU-wide rules to combat violence against women and domestic violence on International Women’s Day. The proposed Directive will criminalise rape, female genital mutilation and cyber violence and shall strengthen victims’ access to justice.
However, the virus cannot be blamed for all these problems, as the ”shadow pandemic” of gender specific violence is a long-term, systemic phenomenon. With regard to Austria, this is reflected by sad figures: in 2021, 31 women were murdered, which means that more than two women per month were killed by their (ex)partner. In 2020, the police force also imposed 11,495 restraining orders; about 8,000 were recorded in previous years. Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality, makes it clear that working with perpetrators had to be an EU-wide approach. Because “if I had to uproot someone after an act of violence, I would prefer to remove the perpetrator from the flat”.
Due to the pandemic, gender specific violence increased throughout Europe. For Evelyn Regner (S&D), Vice-President of the EU Parliament, the Commission proposal is long overdue to establish binding rules in all Member States and to expand protection and support services. It is also necessary to extend the list of EU crimes to violence against women and for all EU Member States to ratify the Istanbul Convention. In order to pursue these ambitions also outside the EU, the EU Parliament adopted a Report on the EU Gender Action Plan III, which defines gender equality as a priority for all EU external strategies and actions. By 2025, 85 % of all new external actions shall contribute to gender equality and to strengthening the role of women.
Council ends blockade
However, there is also some good news in these difficult times: on 14 March 2022, the Ministers of Social Affairs and Employment had been able to agree on the negotiating mandate for die EU Women on Boards Directive in the Council, thereby breaking the blockade. The Commission had proposed that listed companies with seat in an EU country should reach a 40 % share of women on boards. In case of companies, which hold both executive and non-executive director positions, the target is 33 %. Two days after the Council session, the EU Parliament’s Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM) and Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) agreed to opening interinstitutional negotiations. In order for the regulation to become reality, agreement must be reached in the trilogue negotiations between Council, EU Parliament and Commission concerning the concrete form of the Directive.
A&W Blog: Gender specific consequences of the Pandemic (German only)