European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell delivers his speech during a debate on Russia s war against Ukraine, at the European Parliament, Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, in Strasbourg, eastern France. AP
“Violence against women happens in every country,” said Borrell, ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Friday.
Borrell elaborated, describing how one in three women worldwide has experienced physical or sexual violence, while one in five girls are victims of sexual abuse.
He also highlighted how gender-based violence has increased online, saying that half of all women have experienced cyber violence.
“The EU condemns all forms of violence against women and girls. It is unacceptable in the 21st century that women and girls continue to be abused, harassed, raped, mutilated or forced into marriage.”
This year, he said, the EU is paying particular attention to gender-based violence against women in conflict zones.
He pointed to the ongoing war in Ukraine, where Russian armed forces have committed sexual violence.
These victims, many of whom have fled to neighbouring countries in the EU, require support and protection.
Meanwhile, women in Iran have been killed and subject to other violence for “demanding freedom and equality.”
He also pointed to violence against women linked to conflicts in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Borrell emphasised the EU’s commitment to ending violence against women, inside and outside of the EU.
“We will continue to support civil society, women's rights organisations and human rights defenders demanding accountability.”
In the statement, Borrell also announced the creation of an EU-wide hotline – 116 016 – for victims of violence against women to call for advice and support.
So far, 15 member states have already committed to connecting their existing helplines to this number, he said.
Borrell also pointed to the EU’s other efforts to prevent and combat gender-based violence, including funding for projects and organisations through the Citizens, Equality, Rights, and Values Programme.
In March, the European Commission adopted a proposal to criminalise the most serious forms of violence against women such as rape, female genital mutilation, and gender-based cyber violence, including cyberstalking and non-consensual sharing of intimate images.
Then, in May, the commission adopted a proposal to combat child sexual abuse by obliging providers to monitor and remove child sexual abuse material on their services.
Borell also reiterated the commission’s commitment to combat human trafficking, most of the victims of which are women and girls.