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Violence against women is still an ignored problem in Europe.

1 Oct

We were left in awe and admiration after 16-year old Malala Yousafzai stood in front of the United Nations and addressed the world. We all watched the video and read the articles praising this young girl’s bravery and achievement, and we support her commitment for education for millions of girls like her worldwide. In developed nations, we continue to condemn violence against women; from sexual violence in conflict to the brutal treatment of women and girls seeking access to their basic rights. And quite rightly so.

However, what we have forgotten to take away from this, is the recognition of the unfair treatment that women continue to receive right here in Europe. From domestic violence in our homes to sexual violence on the streets, we need to stop pretending that the unfair and unequal treatment of women is an issue that exists only outside of Europe. We need to remove the blinkers that allow us to assume that gender-based violence only exists in war-torn, conflict-ridden, developing states. Or that other countries have a lack of law and order and societal standards which subjugate women to a level where abuse and violence in tolerated. Because in reality gender-based violence happens right here in Europe.

We hear of the treatment of women in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We hear of horrific cases of sexual harrassment in India and Egypt. Yet how often do we allow ourselves to be outraged over the many cases of domestic and sexual violence against women that occur on a daily basis in our own developed countries?

Violence against women is still an ignored problem in Europe ImageLet us take an example: Italy. Italy is currently ranked in the top 50 countries with high human development. However, this does not account for the deep rooted cultural issues Italy faces. Gender-based violence in Italy is rife. In Italy, according to the latest reports, 65 women have been killed since January 2013 by current or ex husbands/boyfriends who either could not stand the humiliation of being dumped, or jealousy simply drove them crazy. In addition, almost 7 million women and girls have been victims of physical and sexual abuse and many women do not report crimes for fear of repercussions or lack of protection from the State. In Italy, stalking only became a crime in 2009 with the introduction of article 612 bis of the Italian criminal code. Previously, women who were persecuted, humiliated or driven to total fear could do absolutely nothing as this behaviour was not effectively punishable according to Italian law. These persecutions often led to the murder of the victims. The phenomenon was so widespread, it induced journalists to coin a specific term for these killings: femminicidio (pl. –di).

Just in case you are still not convinced, let’s discuss some numbers from the UK, another developed nation with no deep rooted problems of violence against women, right? Wrong.

Approximately 85,000 women are raped on average in England and Wales every year. Over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year and 1 in 5 women (aged 16 – 59) have experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16.

Whether home is Egypt, India, Italy or the UK, gender based violence is not being given anywhere close to the amount of attention it is due.

Numbers and statistics can only do so much to bring this emergency to our attention. We also have to start thinking about and elaborating on this information. What is the cause this? Can we really say it is only a few men who come back home from work frustrated and hit their wives, or is a more wide-spread mentality that is hitting society as a whole? In other words, is violence against women a cultural problem?

We often assume that cultural issues as such can be avoided as we increase levels of education. The problem is that we all agree on the fact that this violence is wrong and, because we are all politically correct, we acknowledge the fact that de jure women have the same rights as men. Education, in primis. Yet we confine these rights to paper and leave it there. We go no further to challenge the views that allow gender-based violence to occur. So while we actively support Malala Day and the campaign for education, we need to rethink what we mean by education.

That is not to say that forms of cultural education do not exist and that the whole of Europe is entrenched in inescapable patriarchy. We only need to look at Sweden and their model of gender equality to realise that gender equality in employment and cultural awareness can together become the ultimate antidote to sexual violence. From their parental leave policies to the debate over gender-neutral language, Sweden’s model of cultural education provides positive and workable examples to improve gender equality.

However, with over 28000 cases of violence against women per year, that is still 28000 too many. For all the advancements of women in the public sphere, there still remains a dark cloud over the private sector where misogyny and chauvinism continue to fester.

Europe may have managed to grant access to academic education for men and women alike, yet we’re still lacking in providing the social and cultural education that is necessary to counter views that fester violence against women in the household, fuel rape culture and maintain that women are still the subjugated gender in the 21st Century.

Note: This article is co-written by Martina Spadaro and Heena Mohammed

To read more on this: http://www.ondaosservatorio.it/elementipagine/106/it/conferenze-stampa/751/conferenza-stampa-stop-alla-violenza-sulle-donne

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