Does gender equality trigger gender violence? A controversial new report suggests that certain EU nations might be experiencing a backlashby Serena Kutchinsky / March 21, 2014 / Leave a comment
What is gender violence? When does aggressive behaviour become unacceptable? Is it when a door slams in someone’s face; a push turns into a shove; a gesture spirals into a slap; banter becomes abuse; “no” is taken to mean “yes”? On paper we know the answers but in reality the distinctions are still deeply blurred.
The question played on my mind earlier this month as I sat in the sterile surrounds of the European Parliament in Brussels, listening to new research which exposes the shocking scale of gender violence in modern Europe. Compiled by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA), who interviewed 42,000 women from 28 member states, it revealed that one in three women has been either physically or sexually abused (8 per cent in the last 12 months).
I have always believed that the closer we come to a gender equal society, the less gender violence there will naturally be. The coverage of this emotive issue in the western media confirms this view—it is typecast as endemic to other parts of the world. We hear much of the traumas of women in conflict-ravaged countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan, but there appears to almost be a vow of silence in reporting cases closer to home. This report shatters those cosy preconceptions about our supposedly civilised society, revealing for the first time the scale of this human rights abuse across Europe and highlighting the fact that it typically goes unreported and undetected by the authorities.