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.
A deluge of cold, hard facts, reeled off by a faceless Eurowonk in pinstripes, highlighted how deeply embedded gender violence is in modern society and how it continues to evolve in the digital age. Among the eye-opening findings were the fact that one in 10 women in the EU has experienced sexual violence; 1 in 20 has been raped; 55 per cent have been sexually harassed and 43 per cent have faced psychological abuse. There was also a rise in cyber harassment with 20 per cent of young women aged 18-29 suffering from it, and 11 per cent of women experiencing inappropriate advances via social networks or text messages. The final fact is possibly the most crucial—only 14 per cent of victims across Europe have reported the incident to the police.
Analysis of these statistics which tell of…