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Ending violence against women: the lessons we can learn from the pandemic

Joint statement by PACE President Rik Daems and Zita Gurmai (Hungary, SOC), PACE General Rapporteur on violence against women, to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women (25 November):

“Violence against women remains widespread. An average of 137 women across the world are killed by a partner or family member every day, and women account for 64 per cent of the total of intimate partner/family-related homicides. The lockdown and other measures undertaken to contain the COVID-19 pandemic have led to a huge explosion in violence, with some countries reporting abuses rising by a third.

But there have been some positive signs. The #MeToo movement has contributed to exposing perpetrators and giving women the courage to report violence. Country-wide and local initiatives have helped empower women and encouraged them to take their lives and destinies into their own hands. The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (the Istanbul Convention) has prompted and promoted changes in legislation and increased the protection of thousands of women and girls.”

Zita Gurmai added: “Despite the positive progress, despite the visibility given to this issue, despite all the public denunciations, the violence continues – and the worldwide public health crisis we are experiencing has confined women and girls in violent homes. We would not have imagined this, here in Europe today, but it is the heart-breaking truth, and we must take action against it. The authorities must step their up action and funding for assistance services, increase accommodation facilities and work harder on prevention. Lessons must be learned from the first wave of the pandemic. There’s no time to lose.”

PACE President Rik Daems added that greater pressure must be put on national authorities to protect women and girls and to pursue perpetrators: “Most gender-based violence is committed by men against women, and violence against women is deeply rooted in gender inequality. COVID-19 has shown that in private and confined spaces there is a significant increase in violence, because men think they will go unpunished, their deeds unseen. Real change towards equality starts by putting an end to the most blatant violation of women’s human rights: violence against women. Men and women are both actors for change - today I call on my fellow men to bring about that change, now.”