The European Parliament held a special debate today on the European Union’s strategy to combat violence against women and girls - VAWG. This comes as part of a series of events around the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women - EVAW - and the global 16 Days of Action campaign, from November 25th to December 10th.
Sadly, whilst Europe agrees to commit to measures combating VAWG, the UK government's cuts to both public services and voluntary organisations continues to harm the services which protect and support women who have experienced violence. Cuts to vital services make it harder for women to flee violence, or access justice through legal aid. George Osborne’s expected cuts in the next Spending Round will continue to affect women disproportionately.
In the EU, one in three women is a victim of gender-based violence. 55% of women have been victims of sexual harassment in the last year, and 99% of women have experienced harassment in the street. Following pressure from MEPs, the European Commission published a roadmap last month outlining the EU’s accession to the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence.
On November 18th, Julie and the Women's Voices Project brought the theatre production 'Make Do and Mend' to the European Parliament to an audience of MEPs from the Women's Rights and Gender Equality Committee and grassroots activists from all over the UK.
The play presents the stories of real life women, told through verbatim theatre, and serves as a platform for changing attitudes towards abuse. The aim is to empower people to recognise that abuse is not always only physical or sexual violence, but also coercive, controlling and abusive behaviour, and can be emotional, psychological and financial. The power of 'Make Do and Mend' is to emphasise that domestic abuse is not a "woman’s problem", but a societal one.
Julie Ward MEP said:
“Gender-based violence must be fought at all levels, and at all ages. Education, in and out of school settings is crucial, with sex and relationship education for both boys and girls; overcoming gender stereotypes and prejudices will be the foundation to healthy life-long relationships. “
“Boys and men must be actively engaged to bring an end to violence: this is not a women’s issue, it is a human issue. Women’s representation in positions of decision-making must be increased, as it is when women are invisible that violence prevails.”
“The EU advances the struggle against violence, be it through equality legislation or through funding civil society. I will continue to work together with my Labour colleagues, grassroots campaigners and cultural activists locally, nationally, and internationally, to bring an end to violence against women and girls.”