[TheParliament.com, Brussels, 25 November 2011] The EU must be at the forefront of efforts to combat violence against women, according to European commissioner Viviane Reding.
Writing in the latest issue of the Parliament Magazine, the commission vice-president for justice, fundamental rights and citizenship says that the EU institutions are "working hand-in-hand" to combat gender-based violence.
Her comments came in a special feature to mark the international day for the elimination of violence against women on 25 November.
"We are taking action on several fronts," she writes, pointing to commission proposals aimed at protecting the victims of crime.
She adds, "I am convinced that the EU must play a leading role in eradicating all forms of violence that women may suffer.
"By working together - the parliament, commission, NGOs and citizens - we can make a real difference and achieve tangible results."
Cécile Gréboval, the secretary general of the European women’s lobby (EWL), uses her article to insist that Europe’s economic woes must not detract from its efforts to protect women from violence.
"Ending violence against women is not a luxury for times of growth, but a question of fundamental right," she argues.
This week’s guest MEP editor Sirpa Pietikäinen calls for greater "political will to turn words into action" and protect women from violence.
The Finnish deputy, who recently co-hosted an EWL roundtable on ending violence against women, writes, "Only through determined cooperation between governmental bodies and civil society can we contribute to a Europe where women are free from violence."
Mikael Gustafsson, the chair of parliament’s women’s rights and gender equality committee, argues that the EU must tackle violence against women if it is to uphold its fundamental values.
"Gender-based violence is a violation of fundamental freedoms and rights, such as the right to security and human dignity," he says.
"Respect for human rights is a key value in the EU treaty, and gender equality is a fundamental EU principle."
The commission’s anti-trafficking coordinator Myria Vassiliadou wants to see better protection for the "hundreds of thousands of women and girls becoming victims of trafficking in the EU".
ALDE deputy Liz Lynne discusses what is being done to combat violence against women in her West Midlands constituency, while fellow MEP Emine Bozkurt warns over the horrors of female genital mutilation.
In a joint statement by foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton, European development commissioner Andris Piebalgs and European home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmström, they said, "We can and will do more."
"One in three women suffer some form of violence or sexual abuse during their lifetime," they said, adding, "The EU has already strengthened its legislation to combat human trafficking and will continue to provide a strong and unequivocal response to this fundamental violation of women’s human rights."
They promised that, "The EU will continue to work with partner countries and organisations in their efforts to tackle all forms of violence against women and girls."
By Martha Moss